In Norway and worldwide, the most frequent mental health problems – anxiety, depression and alcohol dependency – are perceived as some of the main public health challenges. In Norway for the time being, the health authorities emphasize the promotion of mental health as an important part of public health efforts. As migration is established as one of the determinants of health and previous research indicates higher rates of mental distress among immigrants, it is highly important to have updated research reviews on mental health challenges among immigrants.
Therefore, the aim of this review is to map the empirical studies in Norway on mental health and related topics among immigrant groups, to summarize main findings, and to discuss the existing challenges and gaps in research and knowledge. To this end, a scoping review of studies published between January 2009 and June 2017 in Norway was conducted. The databases PubMed, MEDLINE, Psych INFO, EMBASE and Oria were searched. The data was charted and sorted according to key themes of interest. Results are reported as descriptive, quantitative and thematic summary.
Sixty-five peer reviewed articles and 14 studies within grey literature were identified, totaling 79 published works; of these, the majority had adult samples. The studies included in this search cover a broad range of themes and are highly diverse in terms of the backgrounds of participants, sample size, outcome measures, study designs, research methods, recruitment methods and place of recruitment. This gives a wide spectrum of findings and insights, but it also complicates the comparison and discussion of research methods, samples and the main findings.
The review indicates that immigrants to Norway are a very diverse group with differing – but often increased – risks for self-reported mental distress. However, knowledge about prevalence rates of mental disorders generally in immigrant groups, for all ages, is still lacking. In line with earlier studies, the review indicates an increased risk for mental distress and disorders with UAMA/URM/UR children/adolescents and in clinical samples of adult refugees, thus confirming that these groups stand out as especially vulnerable for mental health challenges after resettlement in Norway, also. However, the findings also underscore the importance of current life conditions on mental health, and the significance of health promoting interventions over previous traumatic life events. Lower utilization rates of mental health services – both primary and secondary – by several immigrant groups compared to the majority population, are reported in several studies.
There are several methodological challenges in the research related to, for example, sample sizes, reliability and validity of outcome measures, and the lumping together of different country backgrounds. Future research should focus more on understanding the picture behind the survey data by combining quantitative and qualitative methods; requires more attention on positive mental health, and health promotion, and should include user perspectives in the research process more regularly.
Dette er en rapport fra Nasjonalt kompetansesenter for migrasjons- og minoritetshelse (NAKMI). NAKMI ble en del av Folkehelseinstituttet 01.01.2018.