Building a new life in Australia: an analysis of the first wave of the longitudinal study of humanitarian migrants in Australia to assess the association between social integration and self-rated health

Author(s): Wen CHEN ; Li LING ; Andre M. N. RENZAHO

http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmjopen-2016-014313

Abstract

Objectives
To assess the relationship between social integration and physical and mental health among humanitarian migrants (HMs) in Australia.

Design, setting and participants
We used the recently released first wave of data from the 2013 ‘Building a New Life in Australia’ survey, which is an ongoing nationwide longitudinal study. A total of 2399 HMs participated in the survey.

Main outcome measures
Self-rated physical health was measured using four items selected from the SF-36 which is a generic measure of health status. The 6-item Kessler Screening Scale for Psychological Distress (K6) was used to measure mental health. Social integration was measured using four dimensions: economic integration, acculturation, social capital and self-identity.

Results
More than half (63%), 47% and 49% of participants self-rated well on the general health, physical function and role-physical dimensions, respectively and 46% reported not having any bodily pain. Seventeen per cent of participants had a serious mental illness. There was a positive relationship between social integration and physical and mental health. That is, factors associated with better health included less financial hardship (economic integration dimension), better English proficiency and self-sufficiency (acculturation dimension), having the capacity to communicate with locals, having friends from different ethnic/religious groups and attending a place of worship weekly or more often (social capital dimension) and feeling welcomed and having a strong sense of belonging in Australia (self-identity dimension).

Conclusions
Using a more comprehensive framework of social integration, we found that greater social integration was associated with better physical and mental health outcomes among HMs. Social integration should be embedded in HMs’ resettlement programmes in order to reduce migration-related health inequities.

Tags: Australia, Refugees, Self-rated health, Well-being, Social integration

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