Muslim adolescent mental health in the UK: An exploratory cross-sectional school survey

Dabbagha, Nadia, Johnson, Sonia, King, Michael and Blizard, Robert (2012) Muslim adolescent mental health in the UK: An exploratory cross-sectional school survey. International Journal of Culture and Mental Health, 5 (3). pp. 202-218. ISSN 1754-2863 (Print) ; 1754-2871 (Online)

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Over 1.5 million Muslims live in the UK, many in poor socioeconomic circumstances and facing social exclusion and discrimination, yet there is a paucity of research on Muslim mental health, in particular on adolescents. This study investigates whether psychological distress is greater in Muslim adolescents in comparison with their non-Muslim counterparts and whether distress is associated with level of ‘Westernisation’, sense of ‘Britishness’ and perceived discrimination. We conducted a cross-sectional survey of 14–16-year-olds in two large comprehensive schools. The Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ) and the Short Moods and Feelings Questionnaire (SMFQ) were used to measure levels of psychological distress. Contrary to expectations, Muslim students had lower levels of psychological distress than all other religious groups at a statistically significant level (p=0.015). Family structure and academic achievement were found to be significant (p=0.009 and p=0.004, respectively) with the lowest levels of psychological distress being in Muslim students who lived with both biological parents and were doing more than nine GCSEs. Muslim students who were more Westernised, identified themselves as British and perceived less discrimination reported lower levels of psychological distress. Belonging to a particular religious group may have protective effects on mental health possibly due to aspects of the religious community, such as social cohesion, family structure and support, or to aspects of the religion itself. However, these results need to be interpreted with caution as this is a limited exploratory study and further research is required.

Item Type: Article
Additional Information: Published online: 21 Sep 2011
Uncontrolled Keywords: Muslim, Adolescence, Mental Health, Religion
Subjects: Groups & Organisations > Racial/Cultural Groups
Psychological Therapies, Psychiatry, Counselling > Clinical Psychology
Race and Culture > Culture and Psychotherapy
Department/People: Children, Young Adult and Family Services

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