Immigration, Psychosocial Factors and Psychological Distress, with Focus on Perceived Control and Social Integration
Odd Steffen Dalgard
Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Oslo, Norway
Immigration and Mental Health: Stress, Psychiatric Disorders and Suicidal Behavior Among Immigrants and Refugees. Hauppauge, New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2010, 350 pages.
Background: Studies have shown that immigration may be associated with good as well as poor mental health, depending on the social context, and that various social and psychosocial variables may act as explanatory factors. Aims of the study: To investigate the relationship between psychosocial variables and psychological distress in immigrants in Oslo, Norway, with special focus on perceived control and social integration. Methods: The study was based on data from a community survey in Oslo, and encompassed 13992 Norwegian born, 1118 Western immigrants and 1619 Non-western immigrants. Psychological distress was measured by a 10 items version of Hopkins Symptom Check List (HSCL-10), perceived control by scales of generalized self-efficacy and powerlessness, and social integration by an index based on four items: Knowledge of the Norwegian language, reading Norwegian newspapers, visits by Norwegians and receiving help from Norwegians. Information on paid work, household income, marital status, social support and conflicts in intimate relationships was also included in the study. Results: Compared to the Norwegian born and the Western immigrants, the Non-western immigrants had a higher prevalence of psychological distress, and they were more often without paid work, had lower household income, weaker social support and more negative life events, perceived less control, and were less socially integrated. When adjusting for these factors, the increased prevalence of psychological distress in the Non-western immigrants compared to the Norwegian born was substantially reduced, perceived control having an independent effect. Social integration was associated with good mental health in Non-western men but not in Non-western women. Conclusion: Lack of perceived control over own life situation, and in men, lack of social integration, contributes to increased prevalence of psychological distress in Non-western immigrants, and should be addressed in preventive work. In Non-western women the role of social integration is more complex, and one should be more cautious in expecting rapid social integration in these women.