Barriers to participation in mental health research: are there specific gender, ethnicity and age related barriers?

Woodall, Anna; Morgan, Craig; Sloan, Claire; Howard, Louise
January 2010
BMC Psychiatry;2010, Vol. 10, p103
Academic Journal
Background: It is well established that the incidence, prevalence and presentation of mental disorders differ by gender, ethnicity and age, and there is evidence that there is also differential representation in mental health research by these characteristics. The aim of this paper is to a) review the current literature on the nature of barriers to participation in mental health research, with particular reference to gender, age and ethnicity; b) review the evidence on the effectiveness of strategies used to overcome these barriers. Method: Studies published up to December 2008 were identified using MEDLINE, PsycINFO and EMBASE using relevant mesh headings and keywords. Results: Forty-nine papers were identified. There was evidence of a wide range of barriers including transportation difficulties, distrust and suspicion of researchers, and the stigma attached to mental illness. Strategies to overcome these barriers included the use of bilingual staff, assistance with travel, avoiding the use of stigmatising language in marketing material and a focus on education about the disorder under investigation. There were very few evaluations of such strategies, but there was evidence that ethnically matching recruiters to potential participants did not improve recruitment rates. Educational strategies were helpful and increased recruitment. Conclusion: Mental health researchers should consider including caregivers in recruitment procedures where possible, provide clear descriptions of study aims and describe the representativeness of their sample when reporting study results. Studies that systematically investigate strategies to overcome barriers to recruitment are needed.


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