Ethnic identification, discrimination, and mental and physical health among Syrian refugees: The moderating role of identity needs

Author(s): Elif ÇELEBI ; Maykel VERKUYTEN ; Sabahat Cigdem BAGCI


Using a risk and resilience framework and motivated identity construction theory, we investigated the moderating role of identity needs in the association between social identification and perceived discrimination with mental and physical health among a sample of Syrian refugees (N = 361) in Turkey. Results showed that there were two clusters of interrelated identity needs, namely, belonging (belonging, continuity, and esteem) and efficacy (efficacy, meaningfulness, and distinctiveness). Higher perceived ethnic discrimination was found to be associated with poorer mental and physical health but not for respondents who derived a sense of efficacy from their Syrian identity. Higher Syrian identification was associated with lower depression and anxiety but more strongly for refugees who derived a sense of belonging and continuity from their Syrian identity. The findings indicate that investigating the motivational aspects of identity formation is important for understanding when discrimination and group identification undermine or rather contribute to the well-being and health of refugees. These findings are discussed in relation to the growing research on social identities and health.

Tags: Syria, Turkey, Refugees, Depression, Anxiety, Discrimination, Cultural identity

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