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01.12.2017 | Research | Ausgabe 1/2017 Open Access

Systematic Reviews 1/2017

What do register-based studies tell us about migrant mental health? A scoping review

Systematic Reviews > Ausgabe 1/2017
Kishan Patel, Anne Kouvonen, Ciara Close, Ari Väänänen, Dermot O’Reilly, Michael Donnelly
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Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​s13643-017-0463-1) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.



Previous studies investigating the mental health of migrants have shown mixed results. The increased availability of register data has led to a growing number of register-based studies in this research area. This is the first scoping review on the use of registry and record-linkage data to examine the mental health of migrant populations. The aim of this scoping review is to investigate the topics covered and to assess the results yielded from these studies.


We used a scoping review methodology to search MedLine, PubMed, PsychINFO, Web of Science, and SCOPUS for all register-based studies on the mental health of migrants. Two reviewers screened all papers, independently, using iteratively applied inclusion and exclusion criteria. Using gradually broadening inclusion and exclusion criteria for maximum “scope,” newly published criteria developed to appraise the methodological quality of record-linkage studies were applied to eligible papers and data were extracted in a charting exercise.


A total of 1309 papers were screened and appraised, 51 of which met the eligibility and quality criteria and were included in the review. This review identified four major domains of register-based research within the topic of migrant mental health: rates and risks of psychiatric disorders, rates and risks of suicide mortality, the use of psychotropic drugs, and health service utilisation and mental health-related hospitalisation rates. We found that whilst migrants can be at an increased risk of developing psychotic disorders and suicide mortality, they are less likely to use psychotropic medication and mental health-related services.


This review systematically charts the register-based studies on migrants’ mental health for the first time. It shows the main topics and gaps in knowledge in this research domain, discusses the disadvantages of register-based studies, and suggests new directions for forthcoming studies.
Additional file 2: Full search strategy. Our full search strategy for finding relevant studies in our database searches. (DOCX 21 kb)
Additional file 3: Data extraction form. Defining the variables we would be extracting from each individual paper in the charting exercise. (DOCX 14 kb)
Additional file 4: Figure S1. Outlining the exclusion process: from initial database searches to studies included in the review. A flowchart to show the numbers of studies making it through each stage of our study selection process, from initial searches to studies included in qualitative synthesis. (DOC 21 kb)
Additional file 6: Table S4. Appraising each included study using the guidelines set out by Bohensky et al. Description of data: Study number corresponds to the number assigned as “Quality Assessment Number” in Additional file 5: Table S3. “1” indicates criterion is fulfilled; “0” indicates criterion is not fulfilled; blank space indicates criterion is not applicable. (XLSX 20 kb)
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