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News story

Call for better integration of mental health and alcohol services

November 6, 2023

The relationship between alcohol and mental health among UK minority ethnic groups is explored in a joint report showing differences across minority ethnic groups.

The research, from Lancaster University, King’s College London, the University of Liverpool and Edge Hill University, shows the association between alcohol use and mental health differs across minority ethnic groups, and provides insight into people’s reasons for drinking and the treatment that they have received.

Post-doctoral research associate and Lecturer Dr Jo-Anne Puddephatt from Edge Hill University said: “This project has provided actionable insight into the relationship between alcohol and mental health across minority ethnic groups, and how these can be used to inform the way in which minority ethnic groups are supported when experiencing alcohol and mental health problems.”

Previous research has established that both alcohol use and mental health problems can be stigmatised within some minority ethnic groups, which may be one reason why these groups are less likely to seek formal support. Researchers aimed to explore this across specific minority ethnic groups, given that there are known cultural differences between groups.

Principal investigator Dr Laura Goodwin from Lancaster University said: “Our research has shown that different ethnic backgrounds can use alcohol to cope with their mental health. This work has highlighted the need for better integration of mental health and alcohol services and a specific need for tailored provision that is culturally appropriate for different ethnic groups.”

The report used information from nationally representative studies and found that hazardous drinking was common among White British groups as well as some minority ethnic groups, and that poor mental health was associated with increased levels of alcohol use among some minority ethnic groups.

The team conducted interviews with adults from minority ethnic backgrounds living with a diagnosed mental health problem. The team found that there is a need for better understanding and recognition of mental health symptoms and problem drinking, and the interplay between drinking practices, help-seeking and support, and cultural frameworks. 

The team conducted further interviews with service providers, community mental health staff and minority ethnic service users to understand how alcohol use is identified and treated within mental health services. This identified several barriers preventing people from being able to disclose alcohol use when presenting to mental health services, a lack of implementation of formal alcohol screening tools by mental health services, and the limited availability of a range of alcohol services targeted to or informed by the needs of minority ethnic service users.

The report includes several implications and recommendations, including a need to ensure better representation of minority ethnic groups within large UK datasets, a need for mental health and alcohol services to take a culturally appropriate preventative approach to enable better identification of problems and when to seek support, and more consistent screening of alcohol use, using formal tools within mental health services.

Senior Research and Policy Manager at Alcohol Change UK, Mark Leyshon, said: “It is unfortunately very common that alcohol and mental health problems go hand-in-hand, interacting in ways that can maintain or worsen each other. This new report has shown that people from minority ethnic groups with a mental health problem may need additional support around their alcohol use, and that both mental health and alcohol services must become more culturally literate to better serve this particular community.”

The report was funded by Alcohol Change UK, under the New Horizon’s programme.

You can read the full report here.

November 6, 2023


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