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Social support and health: immigrants’ and refugees’ perspectives

Migration and integration are linked to depleted support networks. Although social support is a key determinant of health, newcomers’ appraisal of social support and its impact on health have not been adequately studied. This investigation focused on immigrants’ and refugees’ views of social support, its perceived influence on health and the use of health-related services. Individual in-depth interviews were conducted with 60 Chinese immigrants and 60 Somali refugees in Canada. The study revealed many stressful situations, including health problems that signified a need for support. Just as inadequateand inappropriate support has a negative impact on health, poor health can diminish available support. Social support facilitated employment and ability to meet basic needs, reduced stress, and improved physical and mental health. Support from others reduced loneliness and despair and enhanced the mental health of newcomers. Newcomers believedthat inadequate support exerted a negative influence on their health and use of health-related services, and that poor health had a detrimental effect on the ability to seek or offer support.

Author(s): Edward Makwarimba, Miriam J Stewart, Morton Beiser, Anne Neufeld, Laura Simich, Denise Spitzer

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