thumbs upIndian teenagers in England appear to enjoy better mental health than their White counterparts, according to a new study.

Researchers from the University of Leicester studied 1,501 adolescents aged between 13 and 15 living in Leicester and London, of which 1,087 were Indian and 414 were White, as identified by their ethnicity (not nationality). The ethnically Indian group included adolescents born in Britain, India and other countries, while the White adolescent group included only White British.

All the adolescents completed questionnaires to assess their mental health, and questions were also asked about their use of drugs, alcohol and smoking.

Researchers found that ethnically Indian adolescents had lower rates of all types of mental health problems and substance misuse than White adolescents. For instance, 21% of Indian teenagers showed signs of depressive symptoms, compared to 30% of their White counterparts.

Meanwhile, 18% of Indian teenagers reported that they regularly consumed alcohol, compared to 57% of White teenagers. Rates of smoking were also lower among Indian teenagers (5% compared to 15%), as was drug use (6% compared to 9%).

The only mental health problem for which there was no difference between the two groups was eating disorders.

Lead researcher Professor Nisha Dogra, of the University of Leicester, said: “Our study suggests that adolescents living in England who are of Indian ethnic background appear to enjoy better mental health than their White counterparts. But although our data show the difference, they do not explain it. In our study, it doesn’t appear that the two ethnic groups had different levels of poverty, or that belonging to a specific religious group was a significant factor. Therefore, they may be other factors relating to how children are parented or their social support networks that are influencing their mental health and which may warrant further investigation.”

The full results of the study are published in the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Reference: Dogra N, Svirydzenka N, Dugard P, Singh SP and Vostanis P. Characteristics and rates of mental health problems among Indian and White adolescents in two English cities. British Journal of Psychiatry, bjp.bp.113.126409, online publication ahead of print 6 June 2013