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Ethnicity and the Mental Health Act 1983: Systematic review

  • Swaran P. Singh (a1), Nan Greenwood (a2), Sarah White (a2) and Rachel Churchill (a3)

Black and minority ethnic (BME) patients are disproportionately detained under the Mental Health Act 1983. There has been no systematic exploration of differences within and between ethnic groups, nor of the explanations put forward for this excess.


To systematically review detention and ethnicity, with meta-analyses of detention rates for BME groups, and to explore the explanations offered for ethnic differences in detention rates.


Literature search and metaanalysis. Explanations offered were categorised, supporting literature was accessed and the strength of the evidence evaluated.


In all, 49 studies met inclusion criteria; of these, 19 were included in the meta-analyses. Compared with White patients, Black patients were 3.83 times, BME patients 3.35 times and Asian patients 2.06 times more likely to be detained. The most common explanations related to misdiagnosis and discrimination against BME patients, higher incidence of psychosis and differences in illness expression. Many explanations, including that of racism within mental health services, were not supported by clear evidence.


Although BME status predicts psychiatric detention in the UK, most explanations offered for the excess detention of BME patients are largely unsupported.

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Corresponding author
Swaran P. Singh, Health Sciences Research Institute, Warwick Medical School, Coventry CV4 7AL, UK. Email:
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Studies that were part of the meta-analysis

Declaration of interest


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Ethnicity and the Mental Health Act 1983: Systematic review

  • Swaran P. Singh (a1), Nan Greenwood (a2), Sarah White (a2) and Rachel Churchill (a3)
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