Background Depression is associated with increased mortality, however, little is known about its variation by ethnicity.

Methods We conducted a cohort study of individuals with ICD-10 unipolar depression from secondary mental healthcare, from an ethnically diverse location in southeast London, followed for 8 years (2007-2014) linked to death certificates. Age- and sex- standardised mortality ratios (SMRs), with the population of England and Wales as a standard population were derived. Hazard ratios (HRs) for mortality were derived through multivariable regression procedures.

Results Data from 20 320 individuals contributing 91 635 person-years at risk with 2366 deaths were used for analyses. SMR for all-cause mortality in depression was 2.55(95% CI 2.45-2.65), with similar trends by ethnicity. Within the cohort with unipolar depression, adjusted HR (aHRs) for all-cause mortality in ethnic minority groups relative to the White British group were 0.62(95% CI 0.53-0.74) (Black Caribbean), 0.53(95% CI 0.39-0.72) (Black African) and 0.69(95% CI 0.52-0.90) (South Asian). Male sex and alcohol/substance misuse were associated with an increased all-cause mortality risk [aHR:1.94 (95% CI 1.68-2.24) and aHR:1.18 (95% CI 1.01-1.37) respectively], whereas comorbid anxiety was associated with a decreased risk [aHR: 0.72(95% CI 0.58-0.89)]. Similar associations were noted for natural-cause mortality. Alcohol/substance misuse and male sex were associated with a near-doubling in unnatural-cause mortality risk, whereas Black Caribbean individuals with depression had a reduced unnatural-cause mortality risk, relative to White British people with depression.

Conclusions Although individuals with depression experience an increased mortality risk, marked heterogeneity exists by ethnicity. Research and practice should focus on addressing tractable causes underlying increased mortality in depression.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1639-1651
JournalPsychological Medicine
Issue number10
Early online date5 Sept 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2019


  • All-cause mortality
  • depression
  • ethnicity
  • natural cause mortality
  • unipolar depression
  • unnatural cause mortality


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