Examining the Ethnic & Migration-Related Differences in the Use of IAPT-Based Psychological Treatment

Research Paper Title

The association of migration and ethnicity with use of the Improving Access to Psychological Treatment (IAPT) programme: a general population cohort study.


Common mental disorders (CMD), such as depression and anxiety, are an important cause of morbidity, economic burden and public mental health need. The UK Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme is a national effort to reduce the burden and impact of CMD, available since 2008.

Therefore, the aim of this study was to examine ethnic and migration-related differences in use of IAPT-based psychological treatment using a novel epidemiological dataset with linkage to de-identified IAPT records.


Data from a psychiatric morbidity survey of two South East London boroughs (2008-2010) were individually-linked to data on IAPT services serving those boroughs. The researchers used Poisson regression to estimate association between ethnicity and migration status (including years of UK residence), with rate of subsequent use of psychological treatment.


The rate of psychological treatment use was 14.4 cases per thousand person years [cases/1000 pyrs, 95% confidence intervals (95% CI) 12.4, 16.7]. There was strong statistical evidence that compared to non-migrants, migrants residing in the UK for less than 10 years were less likely to use psychological treatment after adjustment for probable sociodemographic predictors of need, life adversity, and physical/psychiatric morbidity at baseline [rate ratio (RR) 0.4 (95% CI 0.20, 0.75]. This difference was not explained by migration for asylum/political reasons, or English language proficiency, and was evident for both self- and GP referrals.


Lower use of IAPT among recent migrants is unexplained by sociodemographics, adversity, and baseline morbidity. Further research should focus on other individual-level and societal barriers to psychological treatment use among recent migrants to the UK, including in categories of intersecting migration and ethnicity.


Bhavsar, V., Jannesari, S., McGuire, P., MacCabe, J.H., Das-Munshi, J., Bhugra, D., Dorrington, S., Brown, J.S.L., Hotopf, M.H. & Hatch, S.L. (2021) The association of migration and ethnicity with use of the Improving Access to Psychological Treatment (IAPT) programme: a general population cohort study. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology. doi: 10.1007/s00127-021-02035-7. Online ahead of print.

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