Suicide amongst Britain’s Immigrant population: data sources, analytical approaches, and main findings
Peter J. Aspinall
University of Kent, Canterbury, Kent, UK
Immigration and Mental Health: Stress, Psychiatric Disorders and Suicidal Behavior Among Immigrants and Refugees. Hauppauge, New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2010, 350 pages.
This study attempts to examine variations in suicide rates between immigrant populations and ethnic groups in Britain. Lack of recording of ethnic group at death registration has precluded investigation of suicide mortality in minority ethnic groups. Most studies have investigated suicide rates by country of birth but this is now a poor proxy for ethnic group as around half the minority ethnic group population were born in Britain. Also, some country of birth data – such as that for Indian subcontinent countries – contains White persons. Studies that have used this data show consistent findings: men and women born in Ireland and Scotland are at higher risk; men born in South Asia, West Africa, and the Caribbean Commonwealth have low rates of suicide but rates are elevated amongst young South Asian women. A study using name recognition software as a method of ascertaining South Asian ethnicity reported elevated suicide rates in young South Asian women in 1993-1998 data but rates no different from England and Wales in 1999-2003 data. In 1999-2003, however, older South Asian women were a group at risk. There is also no systematically collected information on risk factors for suicide in black and minority ethnic groups, except those who were in contact with mental health services in the year before death. A recent systematic review concluded that ‘we know surprisingly little about the rates of or risk factors for suicide in BME groups in England and Wales’ and recommended that ethnicity rather than place of birth is recorded on death certificates and official records dealing with suicide. Consequently, this chapter accords importance to data sources and their shortcomings and the analytical strategies that can be used to investigate suicide mortality in migrant and minority ethnic groups.