Ethiopian refugees in the UK: migration, adaptation and settlement experiences and their relevance to health

Ethn Health. 2004 Feb;9(1):55-73. doi: 10.1080/1355785042000202745.


Objective: The study explores Ethiopian refugees' and asylum seekers' experiences of migration, adaptation and settlement in the UK and their health beliefs and practices.

Design: Data was collected using semi-structured depth interviews and a semi-structured questionnaire. The sample consisted of 106 Ethiopians resident in the UK.

Results: The majority of the participants fled Ethiopia due to political reasons. Whilst 65% of them had lived in the UK for over five years only 7% had full refugee status. Many of the participants faced difficulties with the immigration system, housing and social services and felt socially isolated. Many also had problems with gaining employment or employment appropriate to their qualifications, and 29% were unemployed. The majority of the participants believe that happiness is a prerequisite to healthiness and also an indication of healthiness. On the other hand the majority believed that sickness is caused by disease and mental illness is caused by both supernatural and psychosocial causes. Most of the participants sought the help of their GP in the first instance of illness although some had experienced difficulties accessing health services due to language problems and poor understanding of the primary healthcare system. The participants also believed that the stress of adaptation and settlement affected their mental health and led to depression.

Conclusion: Migration, adaptation and settlement experiences impact on the health of refugees and are dependent on a number of barriers and enablers, both at a personal and societal level. These should be taken into account in the provision of health and social care services, in particular services should be provided in a culturally competent manner.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation*
  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Child
  • Emigration and Immigration
  • Ethiopia / ethnology
  • Female
  • Health Behavior
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United Kingdom