Open Access Research article

Perceived discrimination is associated with severity of positive and depression/anxiety symptoms in immigrants with psychosis: a cross-sectional study

Akiah O Berg12*, Ingrid Melle12, Jan Ivar Rossberg12, Kristin Lie Romm2, Sara Larsson1, Trine V Lagerberg2, Ole A Andreassen12 and Edvard Hauff12

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Clinical Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

2 Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway

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BMC Psychiatry 2011, 11:77  doi:10.1186/1471-244X-11-77

Published: 6 May 2011



Immigration status is a significant risk factor for psychotic disorders, and a number of studies have reported more severe positive and affective symptoms among immigrant and ethnic minority groups. We investigated if perceived discrimination was associated with the severity of these symptoms among immigrants in Norway with psychotic disorders.


Cross-sectional analyses of 90 immigrant patients (66% first-generation, 68% from Asia/Africa) in treatment for psychotic disorders were assessed for DSM-IV diagnoses with the Structured Clinical Interview for DSM Disorders (SCID-I, sections A-E) and for present symptom severity by The Structured Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale (SCI-PANSS). Perceived discrimination was assessed by a self-report questionnaire developed for the Immigrant Youth in Cultural Transition Study.


Perceived discrimination correlated with positive psychotic (r = 0.264, p < 0.05) and depression/anxiety symptoms (r = 0.282, p < 0.01), but not negative, cognitive, or excitement symptoms. Perceived discrimination also functioned as a partial mediator for symptom severity in African immigrants. Multiple linear regression analyses controlling for possible confounders revealed that perceived discrimination explained approximately 10% of the variance in positive and depression/anxiety symptoms in the statistical model.


Among immigrants with psychotic disorders, visible minority status was associated with perceived discrimination and with more severe positive and depression/anxiety symptoms. These results suggest that context-specific stressful environmental factors influence specific symptom patterns and severity. This has important implications for preventive strategies and treatment of this vulnerable patient group.