This week we will be discussing an article published in July 2020 in the Journal of Health Promotion Practice. In this article, titled “A Scoping Review of Literature About Mental Health and Well-Being Among Immigrant Communities in the United States”, authors Rodriguez, Hill, and McDaniel summarize findings from published research studies and practitioner-focused literature related to the mental health needs of immigrant communities in the United States.


Why did they do it?

The United States immigrant population accounts for approximately 13% of the total population, and while the experience of migrating and events after migration are not all necessarily negative, these experiences can, and often do affect the mental health and well-being of these individuals. As highlighted by the authors of this study, one particular factor that often affects immigrant experiences after migration is their legal classification by the United States government, which differentiates between foreign-born residents. Additionally, laws and policies are often inconsistent across local and state jurisdictions, leading to a combination of issues that increase barriers to health services. This review was conducted to compare and contrast immigrant populations in the United States to non-immigrant populations, with the goal of identifying factors that affect overall health and well-being.  


How did they do it?

This article summarizes findings from a larger scoping review of published research and practitioner-focused gray literature regarding the health of immigrant populations in the United States. To conduct their review, the authors identified 75 sources in total. 28 of these sources were specifically focused on mental health and well-being, and an additional subset of 14 sources reported on quantitative or qualitative studies with implications for mental health.


What did they find?

Through their scoping review, the authors identified associations between immigration and the risk of mental health challenges due to factors both before and after migration. These factors included, but are not limited to,  experiences of war, economic challenges, and racism and discrimination. The authors also identified increased anxiety among immigrants and their families due to the risk of deportation. 

Circling back to a key point highlighted by the authors (i.e. inconsistent immigration  policies across local and state governments), it was found that when such laws systematically exclude certain groups (e.g. immigrant populations) from accessing health services, these laws essentially function as forms of structural racism. Thus, the consequence of these laws could be the presence of  health disparities that are observed across immigrant communities. According to the authors, a number of studies in this scoping review  found associations between immigration policies and the overall health and well-being of immigrant populations across immigration status classification. 

The mental health and well-being of youth and adolescents also emerged from this review as a key issue for immigrant health. Adolescent immigrants are likely to face unique stressors related to the loss of family networks, language barriers, and pressures to acculturate. 

There are a number of other highly important and interesting findings presented by the authors in their review paper. We encourage you to check out their article to get all of the details!


What does it all mean (our take)?

We thank the authors for this work, as it accentuates a big problem we are having in our country. Results from this work indicate that a serious adjustment to the way that we support immigrants in the United States would likely go a long way in improving the health outcomes of these individuals. This change likely needs to originate at the top (e.g., modification of laws) to yield the most significant positive impact. We are hopeful that changes will be made, as we suspect that such changes will lead to greater equity across our country. 

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