Migrants are doing well generally, but experience higher rates of depressive symptoms than the population at large in some European countries. One country stands out as an exception.
Across the board, migrants are more prone to depressive symptoms than the local population in seven out of 21 countries surveyed in Europe. This is the situation in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Switzerland, Germany, France, the Netherlands and Poland. Nonetheless, migrants manage relatively well in Norway compared to those in other European countries.
The Centre for Global Health Inequalities Research (CHAIN) at NTNU conducted the survey, which was based on 25 000 personal interviews. The survey was published in a special issue of the European Journal of Public Health.
In most countries, the prevalence of depressive symptoms is not that different between locals and newcomers.
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Professor Terje Andreas Eikemo from NTNU’s Department of Sociology and Political Science says this is due to the fact that newly arrived migrants tend to be especially resourceful. Eikemo is also the head of CHAIN.
Migrants often have better than average health, both in their country of origin and the hosting country, and they are also less likely to make use of health services. Indeed, these are people who have left their home countries with all that entails, and who are willing to take a risk to achieve a goal. Migrants’ goals usually revolve around pursuing better work opportunities.
“Our study also shows that first-generation immigrants typically have better mental health than second-generation migrants, which indicates that their health advantage decreases over time,” says Eikemo.
This finding is important, because it shows that European integration policy is not working as well as it could.
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Greece and the UK are the only countries surveyed in Europe where migrants have better mental health than the rest of the population. Greece is notable as a country where the local population is also struggling.
“In Greece, both migrants and non-migrants are very vulnerable,” says Eikemo.
On average, both groups display a high level of depressive symptoms, but the locals are even worse off than the new arrivals. Most migrants in Greece come from Albania, Bulgaria and Romania, as well as Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. Many of them are highly educated.
The survey figures are from 2014, and researchers believe that the financial strains of Greece’s economic instability since 2008 have affected these statistics. The consequences of the financial crisis there have lasted until the present day.
A large proportion of the population has been unemployed for a long time and suffered the accompanying mental health consequences. This is especially true for women, who are overrepresented among Greeks who experience depressive symptoms. Of all the groups CHAIN has looked at, Greek women are clearly the most vulnerable.
Depressive symptoms among migrants and non-migrants in Europe: documenting and explaining inequalities in times of socio-economic instability. Gkiouleka A, Avrami L, Kostaki A, Huijts T, Eikemo TA, Stathopoulou T. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30476088
Health in crises. Migration, austerity and inequalities in Greece and Europe: introduction to the supplement Terje A Eikemo, Lydia Avrami, Jennifer Cavounidis, Aliki Mouriki, Anna Gkiouleka, Courtney L McNamara, and Theoni Stathopoulou. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6249566/