Forced migration and mental health: prolonged internal displacement, return migration and resilience

Int Health. 2013 Mar;5(1):19-23. doi: 10.1093/inthealth/ihs014. Epub 2012 Dec 21.


Forced internal displacement has been rising steadily, mainly due to conflict. Many internally displaced people (IDP) experience prolonged displacement. Global research evidence suggests that many of these IDP are at high risk for developing mental disorders, adding weight to the global burden of disease. However, individual and community resilience may act as protective factors. Return migration may be an option for some IDP populations, especially when conflicts end, although return migration may itself be associated with worse mental health. Limited evidence is available on effects of resettlement or return migration following prolonged forced internal displacement on mental health. Also, the role of resilience factors remains to be clarified following situations of prolonged displacement. The public health impact of internal displacement is not clearly understood. Epidemiological and interventional research in IDP mental health needs to look beyond medicalised models and encompass broader social and cultural aspects. The resilience factor should be integrated and explored more in mental health research among IDP and a clearly focused multidisciplinary approach is advocated.

Keywords: Internal displacement; Mental health; Public health; Resilience; Return migration.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Emigration and Immigration*
  • Humans
  • Mental Health*
  • Public Health
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Resilience, Psychological*
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*