ObjectivesEthnic minority people have been suggested to be healthier when living in areas with a higher concentration of people from their own ethnic group, a so-called ethnic density effect. Explanations behind the ethnic density effect propose that positive health outcomes are partially attributed to the protective and buffering effects of increased social capital on health. In fact, a parallel literature has reported increased levels of social capital in areas of greater ethnic residential diversity, but to date, no study in England has explored whether increased social capital mediates the relationship between protective effects attributed to the residential concentration of ethnic minority groups and health.DesignWe employ a mixed-methods approach to examine the association between ethnicity, social capital and mental health. We analyse geocoded data from the 2004 Health Survey for England to examine the association between (1) ethnic residential concentration and health; (2) ethnic residential concentration and social capital; (3) social capital and health; and (4) the mediating effect of social capital on the association between the residential concentration of ethnic groups and health. To further add to our understanding of the processes involved, data from a qualitative study of quality older ethnic minority people were be used to examine accounts of the significance of place of residence to quality of life.ResultsThe association between ethnic density and social capital varies depending on the level of measurement of social capital and differed across ethnic minority groups. Social capital was not found to mediate the association between ethnic density and health. Structural differences in the characteristics of the neighbourhoods where different ethnic groups reside are reflected in the accounts of their daily experiences, and we observed different narratives of neighbourhood experiences between Indian and Caribbean respondents.The use of mixed methods provides an important contribution to the study of ethnic minority people's experience of their neighbourhood, as this approach has allowed us to gain important insights that cannot be inferred from quantitative or qualitative data alone. © 2013 © 2013 Taylor & Francis.