Author(s): Ana F. TEIXEIRA ; Sónia F. DIAS
Objectives: This study aims at examining how factors relating to immigrants’ experience in the host country affect psychological distress (PD). Specifically, we analyzed the association among socio-economic status (SES), integration in the labor market, specific immigration experience characteristics, and PD in a multi-ethnic sample of immigrant individuals residing in Lisbon, Portugal.
Design: Using a sample (n = 1375) consisting of all main immigrant groups residing in Portugal’s metropolitan area of Lisbon, we estimated multivariable linear regression models of PD regressed on selected sets of socio-economic independent variables. A psychological distress scale was constructed based on five items (feeling physically tired, feeling psychologically tired, feeling happy, feeling full of energy, and feeling lonely).
Results: Variables associated with a decrease in PD are being a male (demographic), being satisfied with their income level (SES), living with the core family and having higher number of children (social isolation), planning to remain for longer periods of time in Portugal (migration project), and whether respondents considered themselves to be in good health condition (subjective health status). Study variables negatively associated with immigrants’ PD were job insecurity (labor market), and the perception that health professionals were not willing to understand immigrants during a clinical interaction.
Conclusion: The study findings emphasized the importance of labor market integration and access to good quality jobs for immigrants’ psychological well-being, as well as the existence of family ties in the host country, intention to reside long term in the host country, and high subjective (physical) health. Our research suggests the need to foster cross-national studies of immigrant populations in order to understand the social mechanisms that transverse all migrant groups and contribute to lower psychological well-being.
KEYWORDS: Psychological distress, mental health, immigration, labor market, socio-economic status, Portugal