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Viewpoints of Other Scientists on Migration, Mental Health and PTSD: Review of Relevant Literature (lay summary)

This is a lay summary of the article published under the DOI: 10.1007/978-3-030-48347-0_5

Published onApr 19, 2023
Viewpoints of Other Scientists on Migration, Mental Health and PTSD: Review of Relevant Literature (lay summary)

Refugee mental health affected by the situation left behind and settling in a new place 

Migrants and refugees escaping to foreign countries often experience ongoing post-traumatic stress and other mental health issues. While many of these issues are caused by things that happened in their home countries, scientists say it’s also important to acknowledge that the stress of living in a new country can add to the problem.

According to various studies, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are all common mental health issues among migrants and refugees. PTSD is usually the result of surviving dangerous or damaging events, and people often experience the after-effects of those negative events for months, or even years.

In this study, researchers wanted to understand the different factors that play a role in migrant mental health problems like PTSD. They therefore conducted a type of study called a review, where they summarised information from multiple other studies on the subject, to find common trends or themes.

In many cases, migrant mental health issues were the result of traumatic events like war, the loss of loved ones, or physical assault that took place in their home countries. When these people left those situations, they faced difficult journeys but then felt relief when they reached a new country.

The researchers said, however, that this relief was often temporary, because migrants faced new challenges after relocating.

They found that migrants often had a difficult time in the new country as well, especially if they didn’t understand the language, or had a hard time adapting to the culture. When people had reached the country illegally, or were trying to gain asylum, they also had to deal with legal problems, and often had a hard time accessing services like healthcare. 

For some, racism and discrimination in their new country added to their feelings of being unsafe, and many had left family members behind and were alone.

These factors contributed to ongoing mental health problems, even once these migrants were in a safer situation than the one in their home country.

The researchers added that migrants had many different strategies for dealing with these problems, from carefully planning how they could tackle them, to seeking out help from others in their community, or more negative approaches like substance abuse.

The researchers say that more research is needed on all stages of the migrant journey. Specifically, it’s important to investigate factors affecting mental health in people’s home countries, but also over the long-term in their new countries. They add that the journeys of people moving from Africa to Europe need more detailed attention from researchers.

This study was a collaboration between scientists based in South Africa and Germany, and forms part of a book on the experiences of African migrants living in European countries.


In this chapter, we provide a review of empirical studies conducted on PTSD, mental health and wellbeing of migrants. Most studies suggest that both pre- and post-migration stressors affect the mental health and PTSD of migrants and refugees. In origin countries, trauma exposure and torture posed significant risks to migrants’ mental health. Mental health issues causing significant distress for migrants in host countries include acculturative stress, legal status, family separation, language barrier, poor access to proper healthcare, discrimination, racism, feelings of helplessness, decreased self-esteem, chronic distress and hypervigilance. Among all mental health problems, depression, anxiety and PTSD are considered as most common with respective prevalent figures of 4–40%, 5–44% and 9–36%. Generally, social support and adaptive coping mechanisms were identified as buffers.


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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