Impacts of social integration and loneliness on mental health of humanitarian migrants in Australia: evidence from a longitudinal study

Aust N Z J Public Health. 2019 Feb;43(1):46-55. doi: 10.1111/1753-6405.12856. Epub 2019 Jan 2.


Objective: To examine the impacts of social integration and loneliness on the mental health of humanitarian migrants (HMs) in Australia over time.

Methods: A total of 1,723 HMs who held permanent visas from the first to third waves (2013-2016) of a longitudinal study in Australia (Building a New Life in Australia) were included in the study. Dependent variables included poor general health, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and severe mental illness (SMI). Predictors were social integration stressors and loneliness. We used generalised linear mixed models to assess impacts of the changing status of social integration and loneliness on dependent variables over time.

Results: HMs with increased social integration stressors reported poor general health (aOR:1.56, 95%CI:1.19-2.03); PTSD (aOR:1.67; 95%CI: 1.32-2.13); and SMI (aOR: 1.46; 95%CI: 1.15-1.86) over time when compared to those without stressors. Increased loneliness during resettlement was also associated with poor general health (aOR: 1.56; 95%CI:1.28-1.91); PTSD (aOR: 1.57; 95%CI: 1.28-1.93) and SMI (aOR: 1.59; 95%CI: 1.31-1.94). HMs who reported overcoming loneliness (aOR:1.50, 95%CI: 1.24-1.83 for SMI and aOR:1.51; 95%CI: 1.22-1.86 for PTSD) and persistent loneliness (aOR:1.99; 95%CI: 1.51-2.61 for SMI) reported poorer mental health over time than those who did not report loneliness. Implications for public health: Culturally competent settlement services addressing social integration stressors and loneliness are required to improve the mental health of humanitarian migrants.

Keywords: general health; humanitarian migrants; loneliness; mental health; social integration.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Australia
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interpersonal Relations*
  • Loneliness / psychology*
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Relief Work
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Transients and Migrants / psychology*