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Ethnicity is an identity formed by shared ancestry, physical traits, language and culture which differentiate a group from others (1). Culture refers to a group’s shared characteristics and social behaviours, such as values, language, practices, artifacts and traditions (2).


Ethnicity Culture Risk/Pro

Risk and/or Protective Factor

Cultures and ethnicities are a protective factor for mental health, as cultures can provide social networks and support (3); which are protective factors of mental health. Furthermore, strong ethnic identification and involvement in ethnic practices have been associated with fewer depressive symptoms (4).

However, the racism, discrimination and inequality frequently experienced by minority ethnic populations puts them at greater risk of poor mental health (5) (6). Research also suggests that minority ethnic populations underutilise mental health services (7); adding to poor mental health outcomes. Their help-seeking behaviour may be affected by higher stigma (8) as well as a lack of cultural and/or ethnically suitable treatments (6).

People with indigenous status are native to a region and have strong links to culture and language, which are distinct from the dominant society (9). Indigenous state can be a risk factor for mental health as it has been associated with higher prevalence of anxiety and depressive symptoms than in non-Indigenous adults (10).



1.        Chandra K. What Is Ethnic Identity? A Minimalist Definition. In: Constructivist Theories of Ethnic Politics. Oxford University Press; 2013.

2.        Taras V, Rowney J, Steel P. Half a century of measuring culture: Review of approaches, challenges, and limitations based on the analysis of 121 instruments for quantifying culture. J Int Manag. 2009 Dec 1;15(4):357–73.

3.        Schock-Giordano AM. Ethnic Families and Mental Health. SAGE Open [Internet]. 2013 Mar 6 [cited 2021 Feb 5];3(1):1–7. Available from:

4.        Mossakowski KN. Coping with perceived discrimination: Does ethnic identity protect mental health? J Health Soc Behav [Internet]. 2003 [cited 2021 Feb 5];44(3):318–31. Available from: /record/2003-09001-006

5.        Bignall T, Jeraj S, Helsby E, Butt J. Racial disparities in mental health: Literature and evidence review [Internet]. 2020. Available from:

6.        Baskin C, Zijlstra G, McGrath M, Lee C, Helen Duncan F, Oliver EJ, et al. Community-centred interventions for improving public mental health among adults from ethnic minority populations in the UK: a scoping review. BMJ Open. 2021;11.

7.        Villatoro AP, Mays VM, Ponce NA, Aneshensel CS. Perceived Need for Mental Health Care: The Intersection of Race, Ethnicity, Gender, and Socioeconomic Status. Soc Ment Health. 2018;8(1):1–24.

8.        Mantovani N, Pizzolati M, Edge D. Exploring the relationship between stigma and help-seeking for mental illness in African-descended faith communities in the UK. Heal Expect [Internet]. 2017 Jun 1 [cited 2021 Feb 5];20(3):373–84. Available from:

9.        United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs. Indigenous Peoples at the United Nations | United Nations For Indigenous Peoples [Internet]. 2020 [cited 2021 Jan 13]. Available from:

10.      Jorm AF, Bourchier SJ, Cvetkovski S, Stewart G. Mental health of Indigenous Australians: a review of findings from community surveys. Med J Aust [Internet]. 2012 Feb 6 [cited 2021 Feb 5];196(2):118–21. Available from:


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