Research Topic

Immigration and Mental Health in Modern Societies

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About this Research Topic

Massive movements of people far from their place of birth is one of the major features of today’s global population. Over 250 million people, about 3% of the total, live in a country in which they were not born. About half of these are labor migrants, people who have crossed international borders, with or ...

Massive movements of people far from their place of birth is one of the major features of today’s global population. Over 250 million people, about 3% of the total, live in a country in which they were not born. About half of these are labor migrants, people who have crossed international borders, with or without state sanction, in search of work. Millions are refugees, fleeing a country in which they face “a well-founded fear of persecution” to a new country from which they hope to obtain protection. The UN High Commissioner on Refugees estimates that the number of forcibly displaced individuals reached 68.5 million in 2017. The number of internal migrants, people who move within the boundaries of their home countries, is much larger, estimated by the United Nations Development Program to be 740 million in 2009. These numbers are expected to increase, due in part to an increase in climate-related migration, i.e. movements of people motivated by climate change. Research has demonstrated that these diverse movements of people have complicated and variable impacts on the mental health of migrants, their families, the communities in which they settle, and the communities that they leave behind.

The circumstances surrounding migration are highly varied, but the research that has been conducted on the mental health of these diverse migrations has rarely been brought together. All migrations entail some degree of displacement and challenges to cope with a new cultural context and social position. However, labor migrants and refugees operate under completely different legal systems, which determine the basic conditions under which they live their lives. Migrants are received in very different ways across the countries of destination. Factors that impact populations prior to migration may have important implications for their mental health after they arrive and settle in new surroundings. Despite many studies of particular migrant flows, the ways in which these diverse conditions of migration impact mental health are not well understood.

The goal of this Research Topic is to expand and compare studies of migrations and their impacts on mental health from multiple perspectives. We include perspectives of immigrants, refugees, internal migrants and their families and of the communities of origin as well as the communities of destination. We are also interested in as many country dyads as possible, to name but a few, Mexican people to the United States, Turkish people to Germany or Caribbean nationals to the United Kingdom. We are also especially interested in other less studied dyads in the international scene. For example, while the United Nations mentions that Saudi Arabia, Germany and the Russian Federation hosted the second, third and fourth largest numbers of migrants worldwide (around 12 million each), we know very little about these contemporary experiences of immigration and mental health. Knowledge of these less-studied migrations can also inform our understanding of the more commonly studies migrations, such as that between Mexico and the US or between the Caribbean and Europe. Finally, we are interested in as many specific mental health experiences and disorders as possible. Moving beyond the simple dichotomy of presence/absence of mental health, we are interested in specific entities, such as alcohol use disorder, drug use disorder, schizophrenia, suicide, conduct disorder, depression, etc.

We want to use the wide audience of Frontiers in Psychiatry to reach as many researchers from as many countries as possible, in order to have a truly international collection of papers for a truly international problem. For that goal, we are calling for a variety of submission forms, such as systematic reviews, meta-analysis, original research and brief research report. While we are interested in new data-methods to advance this important problem, we also welcome overall authoritative reflections on these topics, ranging from a broad social-cultural perspective, but also from a psychological-psychiatric perspective.


Keywords: Immigration, Mental Health, Culture, Epidemiology, Substance Use


Important Note: All contributions to this Research Topic must be within the scope of the section and journal to which they are submitted, as defined in their mission statements. Frontiers reserves the right to guide an out-of-scope manuscript to a more suitable section or journal at any stage of peer review.

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