, Volume 35, Issue 12, pp 554-563
Date: 05 Mar 2014

Continuity of contact with psychiatric services: immigrant and Australian-born patients

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Background: Under-representation of ethnic minority groups in psychiatric services has been widely reported in Western nations. The present study examined whether there were differences between immigrant and Australian-born patients in their maintenance of contact with a statewide psychiatric service system. Methods: Groups were selected on the empirical grounds that they are differently represented in this service system. Employing a form of case-control design, four groups of patients were compared: those born in Australia, the United Kingdom, Southern Europe, and South East/East Asia respectively (n = 79 for each). Groups were identically matched on sex, age, diagnosis (either schizophrenia or bipolar illness) and locality of service. The groups did not differ as to the timing of their first appearance in the 3-year period in which their psychiatric contact was examined. Results: Despite their different representation in the psychiatric service system, the four groups did not differ on measures of continuity of contact. Measures included number of contacts with mental health community services, number of admissions to inpatient wards, length of stay in hospital and the longest interval between any two successive service contacts. Conclusions: The commonly reported under-representation of immigrant groups in the psychiatric service system does not appear to be due to greater discontinuation of contact with services. If the assumption of equal community prevalence of disorder is made, then the observed under-representation may be due to differential rates of access to (that is, initial contact with) psychiatric services.

Accepted: 16 August 2000