Ethnic inequalities in mental and physical multimorbidity in women of reproductive age: a data linkage cohort study

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OBJECTIVES: Explore inequalities in risk factors, mental and physical health morbidity in non-pregnant women of reproductive age in contact with mental health services and how these vary per ethnicity. DESIGN: Retrospective cohort study. SETTING: Data from Lambeth DataNet, anonymised primary care records of this ethnically diverse London borough, linked to anonymised electronic mental health records ('CRIS secondary care database'). PARTICIPANTS: Women aged 15-40 years with an episode of secondary mental health care between January 2008 and December 2018 and no antenatal or postnatal Read codes (n=3817) and a 4:1 age-matched comparison cohort (n=14 532). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Preconception risk factors including low/high body mass index, smoking, alcohol, substance misuse, micronutrient deficiencies and physical diagnoses. RESULTS: Women in contact with mental health services (whether with or without severe mental illness (SMI)) had a higher prevalence of all risk factors and physical health diagnoses studied. Women from minority ethnic groups were less likely to be diagnosed with depression in primary care compared with white British women (adjusted OR 0.66 (0.55-0.79) p<0.001), and black women were more likely to have a SMI (adjusted OR 2.79 (2.13-3.64) p<0.001). Black and Asian women were less likely to smoke or misuse substances and more likely to be vitamin D deficient. Black women were significantly more likely to be overweight (adjusted OR 3.47 (3.00-4.01) p<0.001), be diagnosed with hypertension (adjusted OR 3.95 (2.67-5.85) p<0.00) and have two or more physical health conditions (adj OR 1.94 (1.41-2.68) p<0.001) than white British women. CONCLUSIONS: Our results challenge the perspective that regular monitoring of physical health in primary care should be exclusively encouraged in people with a l diagnosis. The striking differences in multimorbidity for women in contact with mental health services and those of ethnic minority groups emphasise a need of integrative models of care.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere059257
Pages (from-to)e059257
JournalBMJ Open
Issue number7
Early online date15 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jul 2022


  • Cohort Studies
  • Ethnicity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Information Storage and Retrieval
  • Minority Groups
  • Multimorbidity
  • Retrospective Studies


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