The British Journal of Psychiatry

Abstract

Background The concept of social exclusion is now widely used in discussions about the nature of disadvantage, and there are ongoing initiatives to promote social inclusion among those with mental health problems.

Aims To conduct a conceptual and methodological review of social exclusion, focusing initially on the origins and definitions of the concept and then on approaches to its measurement, both in general and in relation to mental health.

Method We used two main strategies. First, we utilised expertise within the study team to identify major texts and reviews on social exclusion and related topics. Second, we searched major bibliographic databases for literature on social exclusion and mental health. We adopted a non-quantitative approach to synthesising the findings.

Results There is no single accepted definition of social exclusion. However, most emphasise lack of participation in social activities as the core characteristic. There are a number of approaches to measuring social exclusion, including use of indicator lists and dimensions. In the mental health literature, social exclusion is poorly defined and measured.

Conclusions If social exclusion is a useful concept for understanding the social experiences of those with mental health problems, there is an urgent need for more conceptual and methodological work.

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