How well does registry data answer questions about migrant mental health? An analysis of author concerns from a scoping review

Patel, K., Kouvonen, A., Close, C., Donnelly, M., O'Reilly, D. & Vaananen, A. (2017) UK Administrative Data Research Network Annual Research Conference, Royal College of Surgeons, Edinburgh, UK, 1 - 2 June 2017

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The increased availability of register data has led to a growing number of register-based studies on migrant mental health. As part of a scoping review, we investigated the advantages and disadvantages of using registry data to answer questions in this research area.

We used a scoping review methodology to search MedLine, PubMed, PsychINFO, Web of Science, and SCOPUS fro all register-based studies on the mental health of migrants. Two reviewers screened all papers independently using gradually broadening inclusion and exclusion criteria for maximum 'scope'. Data were extracted in a charting exercise.

A total of 1309 papers were screened and appraised, 51 of which met our eligibility and quality criteria and were included in the review. We found that migrants were more likely to suffer from mental disorders and more likely to attempt suicide than their new country's settled population, but less likely to use psychotropic medication. Analysis into migrant use of health services yielded mixed results. The most common advantages reported by authors included large sample sizes and elimination of sample bias. However, the underreporting to re-migration and discrepancies in the coding of disorders were recorded as limitations in most studies.

This review systematically charts the register-based studies on migrants' mental health for the first time. It discusses the ability of registry data to accurately assess migrant mental health, as informed by the authors of register-based studies.

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