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The Effects of Perceived Discrimination on Immigrant and Refugee Physical and Mental Health

Immigration and Health

ISBN: 978-1-78743-062-4, eISBN: 978-1-78743-061-7

Publication date: 7 January 2019


Discrimination has been identified as a major stressor and influence on immigrant health. This study examined the role of perceived discrimination in relation to other factors, in particular, acculturation, in physical and mental health of immigrants and refugees. Data for US adults (18 +  years) were derived from the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions. Mental and physical health was assessed with SF-12. Acculturation and perceived discrimination were assessed with multidimensional measures. Structural equation models were used to estimate the effects of acculturation, stressful life effects, perceived discrimination, and social support on health among immigrants and refugees. Among first-generation immigrants, discrimination in health care had a negative association with physical health while discrimination in general had a negative association with mental health. Social support had positive associations with physical and mental health and mediated the association of discrimination to health. There were no significant associations between discrimination and health among refugees, but the direction and magnitude of associations were similar to those for first-generation immigrants. Efforts aiming at reducing discrimination and enhancing integration/social support for immigrants are likely to help with maintaining and protecting immigrants’ health and well-being. Further research using larger samples of refugees and testing moderating effects of key social/psychosocial variables on immigrant health outcomes is warranted. This study used multidimensional measures of health, perceived discrimination, and acculturation to examine the pathways between key social/psychosocial factors in health of immigrants and refugees at the national level. This study included possibly the largest national sample of refugees.




This study was funded by grant# R01-1DA023615 from the National Institutes of Health.


Szaflarski, M. and Bauldry, S. (2019), "The Effects of Perceived Discrimination on Immigrant and Refugee Physical and Mental Health", Immigration and Health (Advances in Medical Sociology, Vol. 19), Emerald Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 173-204.



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