05:37pm Tuesday 22 October 2019

New social intervention to help Pakistani women with depression

Their 10-week programme, which was trialled in the north-west of England, helped the women feel more positive and improved their satisfaction and social functioning. The findings are published in the September issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.

Previous studies have shown that South Asian women living in the UK – particularly those of Pakistani origin – have a higher rate of depression, suicide and self-harm than White women. However, there are no psychosocial interventions specifically designed to help people from ethnic minorities with depression.

Dr Nusrat Husain and the team , recruited 123 British Pakistani women to take part in the Medical Research Council-funded study and divided them into three groups. One group took part in the social intervention, one group was given antidepressants, and the third group received both the intervention and antidepressant treatment.

The social intervention involved women attending groups at a local community centre for weekly sessions over 10 weeks. At the first session, the women chose from a list of indoor and outdoor activities they could take part in. They also participated in an educational session, which gave information about depression including its nature, symptoms, causes and treatment. To ensure cultural sensitivity, the women were taken to the sessions by taxi accompanied by a female transport facilitator, and the sessions took place in a culturally acceptable venue with childcare provided. Food was offered at the end of each session.

Women who took part in the social intervention said they felt “very much at home” because the sessions were culturally appropriate, with multilingual group facilitators and information materials available in their own language. The women described their experience as “relief from worries” and “feeling fresh”. They enjoyed meeting people, and were able to confide in others – something they were struggling to do at home.

After follow-up at 3 and 9 months, the researchers found a greater improvement in the depression scores for the social intervention group than the antidepressant group. There were also improvements in social functioning and satisfaction for those receiving the social intervention compared to those receiving antidepressants alone. However, these improvements were not found to be statistically significant.

Dr Husain said: “Since depression is very prevalent among British Pakistani women, and treatment is currently very poor, this represents an important development. Our failure to achieve statistically significant results comes in part from our small sample size. However, it’s clear that the women found the social intervention acceptable, with improvement in their social functioning and depression. We now need more research to investigate if these encouraging outcomes can be improved.”

For further information, please contact Liz Fox or Deborah Hart in the Communications Department.
Telephone: 020 7235 2351 Extensions. 6298 or 6127



Gater R, Waheed W, Husain N, Tomenson B, Aseem S and Creed F (2010) Social intervention for British Pakistani women with depression: randomised controlled trial, British Journal of Psychiatry, 197: 228-233

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