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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.

Original publication




Journal article


British Journal of Psychiatry

Publication Date





477 - 483