Machine Learning Applications in Studying Mental Health Among Immigrants and Racial and Ethnic Minorities: A Systematic Review


Background: The use of machine learning (ML) in mental health (MH) research is increasing, especially as new, more complex data types become available to analyze. By systematically examining the published literature, this review aims to uncover potential gaps in the current use of ML to study MH in vulnerable populations of immigrants, refugees, migrants, and racial and ethnic minorities. Methods: In this systematic review, we queried Google Scholar for ML-related terms, MH-related terms, and a population of a focus search term strung together with Boolean operators. Backward reference searching was also conducted. Included peer-reviewed studies reported using a method or application of ML in an MH context and focused on the populations of interest. We did not have date cutoffs. Publications were excluded if they were narrative or did not exclusively focus on a minority population from the respective country. Data including study context, the focus of mental healthcare, sample, data type, type of ML algorithm used, and algorithm performance was extracted from each. Results: Our search strategies resulted in 67,410 listed articles from Google Scholar. Ultimately, 12 were included. All the articles were published within the last 6 years, and half of them studied populations within the US. Most reviewed studies used supervised learning to explain or predict MH outcomes. Some publications used up to 16 models to determine the best predictive power. Almost half of the included publications did not discuss their cross-validation method. Conclusions: The included studies provide proof-of-concept for the potential use of ML algorithms to address MH concerns in these special populations, few as they may be. Our systematic review finds that the clinical application of these models for classifying and predicting MH disorders is still under development

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