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Theoretical Explanations of Migrations, Mental Health, Wellbeing and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (lay summary)

This is a lay summary of the article published under the DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-48347-0_4

Published onJun 20, 2023
Theoretical Explanations of Migrations, Mental Health, Wellbeing and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (lay summary)

African immigrants in Europe may experience poor mental health

What Africans experience before, during or after they migrated to Europe may cause serious mental health problems and stress, said researchers. If host countries could be more receptive to migrants, it would help improve their mental health.

Some Africans migrate to European countries to look for better lives and educational opportunities. The whole process of migration, as well as differences in race, culture and other factors affects physical and mental health. 

Researchers wanted to know why some Africans risk their lives to migrate to other countries despite the risks, because there is still no single well-developed theory to answer this question.

In this book chapter, the authors tried to explain what happens during migration, and to identify the causes of poor mental health and stress among African migrants to Europe.

They summarised theories that had attempted to account for poor mental health of migrants from Africa. The authors also analysed factors that lead to migration, and they reviewed what the European Union and the United Nations said regarding immigrants.

Their analysis shows that no mental health theory fully explains the impact of migration on mental health and stress. 

Some studies say Africans migrate to Europe to search for better paying jobs, and to avoid traumatising and stressful lives in their countries. Their mental problems may be caused by the traumatic life in their countries of origin, and how they live in the host country, especially when they don’t get residence permits on time or if they don’t have enough resources. 

The authors also showed that migrants experience cultural conflicts because of different beliefs, norms and behaviours. 

They said Individuals enjoy and are more willing to work with people who share some characteristics. Also, immigrants are more likely to experience work and money-related stress, and may not take good care of their health in host countries. 

Their ability to cope with migration challenges depends on what they went through during the entire process. Immigrants may often be able to cope because most of them are young, fit and physically strong. The authors say immigrants who believe in God cope better.

In this analysis of existing research, the authors showed that mental health theories complement each other in addressing stress, and should not be treated as independent.

Their analysis will help people working to manage mental health problems. The authors summarised experiences of African migrants in five EU Countries (France, Germany, Italy, Spain, and The Netherlands) and the United Kingdom. 


[We approached this chapter by providing frameworks for understanding the migration process, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and mental health and wellbeing of migrants with special focus on migrants of African origin. The Migration Theory of Boswell (Addressing the causes of migratory and refugee movements: The role of the European Union (Working Paper No. 73). United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva., 2002) was critiqued and principally utilized to explain the root and proximate causes, enabling conditions and sustaining factors of migration with backgrounds in the existing macro, meso and micro theories of migration. The existing theoretical postulations used in explaining the PTSD, wellbeing and mental health of migrants include the Trauma-based Medical Model, Chronic Traumatic Stress Model, Hobfoll’s Conservation of Resources, Stress-coping Framework, Lazarus and Folkman’s Stress Model, Boski’s Theory of Disharmony, Acculturative Theory, Cultural Syndromes, and Attachment Theory. These theories were categorized according to how they accounted for the mental health and wellbeing of both forced and economic migrants during the pre-migration, mid-migration and the post-migration periods. These categorizations may be useful to experts in the management of mental health problems based on each stage of the migration process and motives for migration]


This summary is a free resource intended to make African research and research that affects Africa, more accessible to non-expert global audiences. It was compiled by ScienceLink's team of professional African science communicators as part of the Masakhane MT: Decolonise Science project. ScienceLink has taken every precaution possible during the writing, editing, and fact-checking process to ensure that this summary is easy to read and understand, while accurately reporting on the facts presented in the original research paper. Note, however, that this summary has not been fact-checked or approved by the authors of the original research paper, so this summary should be used as a secondary resource. Therefore, before using, citing or republishing this summary, please verify the information presented with the original authors of the research paper, or email [email protected] for more information.

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