The Impact of Stigma on the Mental Health of Resettled African and Asian Refugees
The global refugee crisis worsens day-by-day, with millions of refugees forced to seek safe haven abroad. Pre-migration trauma exposure contributes to disproportionately higher rates of psychopathology, especially among torture survivors and women. The extant literature has largely focused on the effects of pre-migration factors; however, increasingly, researchers recognize the critical impact of post-migration living difficulties (PMLD) in exacerbating refugee mental health. One example of a PMLD is stigma, defined as a socially devalued attribute (e.g., minority race, ethnicity, sex). A robust literature documents the deleterious effects of stigma on psychological functioning, but few studies of refugees have explored stigma, which is surprising because refugees often possess multiple stigmas. Given this gap in the literature, the present study examined the impact of stigma on psychological well-being in a sample of resettled refugees of mixed ethnic/racial and religious origins. Specifically, analyses tested (1) the independent effect of race among African and Asian refugees, (2) a linear model of multiple stigmas predicting mental health outcomes, and (3) between-group effects of race among Muslims and of religion among Asian refugees. Results showed that race significantly predicted posttraumatic stress symptoms among African and Asian refugees when controlling for sex and torture status, with Africans reporting higher levels of posttraumatic stress than Asians. Findings suggest that the effect of multiple stigmas on mental health outcomes is non-linear. Finally, results indicated that Muslim refugees experienced equivalent levels of anxious and general symptoms across racial groups; among Asians, significant between-group effects by religion were found for general symptoms. By understanding key factors impacting refugee mental health, more appropriate and efficacious interventions may be developed to treat this vulnerable population.