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Background: In adults the prevalence of psychological distress varies in different ethnic groups, and this has been explained by differences in socio-economic status. Is this also the case in adolescents? Aims: To examine whether ethnic differences in prevalence of psychological distress in adolescents are associated with social deprivation. Method: A cross-sectional questionnaire survey was used to assess 2790 male and female pupils, aged 11-14 years, from a representative sample of 28 east London secondary schools. Results: Rates of psychological distress were similar to rates in UK national samples in boys and girls. Bangladeshi pupils, although highly socially disadvantaged, had a lower risk of psychological distress (OR=0.63, 95% CI 0.4-0.9). Non-UK White girls had higher rates of depressive symptoms (OR=1.54, 95% CI 1.1-2.2). Conclusions: High rates of depressive symptoms in non-UK White girls may be related to recent migration. Low rates of psychological distress in Bangladeshi pupils in this sample relative to White pupils, despite socio-economic disadvantage, could be associated with cultural protective factors that require further investigation.

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of Psychiatry

Publication Date





233 - 238