Longing to belong: social inclusion and wellbeing among youth with refugee backgrounds in the first three years in Melbourne, Australia

Soc Sci Med. 2010 Oct;71(8):1399-408. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2010.07.018. Epub 2010 Aug 5.


For young people with refugee backgrounds, establishing a sense of belonging to their family and community, and to their country of resettlement is essential for wellbeing. This paper describes the psychosocial factors associated with subjective health and wellbeing outcomes among a cohort of 97 refugee youth (aged 11-19) during their first three years in Melbourne, Australia. The findings reported here are drawn from the Good Starts Study, a longitudinal investigation of settlement and wellbeing among refugee youth conducted between 2004 and 2008. The overall aim of Good Starts was to identify the psychosocial factors that assist youth with refugee backgrounds in making a good start in their new country. A particular focus was on key transitions: from pre-arrival to Australia, from the language school to mainstream school, and from mainstream school to higher education or to the workforce. Good Starts used a mix of both method and theory from anthropology and social epidemiology. Using standardized measures of wellbeing and generalised estimating equations to model the predictors of wellbeing over time, this paper reports that key factors strongly associated with wellbeing outcomes are those that can be described as indicators of belonging - the most important being subjective social status in the broader Australian community, perceived discrimination and bullying. We argue that settlement specific policies and programs can ultimately be effective if embedded within a broader socially inclusive society - one that offers real opportunities for youth with refugee backgrounds to flourish.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adolescent
  • Australia
  • Child
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Mental Health*
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Social Class
  • Social Environment
  • Social Identification*
  • Young Adult