Social determinants of immigrant women’s mental health

AUTHORS    Mahin Delara

LOCATION   International


Migration is a population movement with enormous challenges for immigrant women that influence their mental health. Mental health is a social issue, and its determinants need to be recognized for health policy making. This paper reviews and consolidates findings from the existing literature on social determinants of immigrant women’s mental health within a socioecological framework. Findings of this review revealed that mental health of immigrant women is an outcome of several interacting determinants at social, cultural, and health care system levels and hence calls for many different ways to promote it. Recommendations for mental health promotion of immigrant women with respect to research, education, practice, and policy are explored.

How does this research apply to my work?

It is important for settlement, social and health service providers to be aware of the unique social determinants of mental health that can impact immigrant and refugee women in order to provide adequate and appropriate service provision, and to make proper referrals if deemed necessary.

What should I take away from this research?

  • Within a socioecological framework, determinants of immigrant women’s mental health in postimmigration context can be examined at different level of cultural, social, and health care system. 
  • Immigrant women’s cultural identity can shape their responses to mental health and illness through influencing access to services, stigmatization, behavior norms associated with gender role, and acculturation process.
  • Social networks can affect mental health through three primary mechanisms of social support; social influence; and social integration
  • Immigrant women may experience disadvantaged social positions due to gender role, racism, socioeconomic status, and victimization.
  • Immigrant women may also face many difficulties in accessing the social and health care system due to communication, psychological, social, spirituality, and religious, structural, economic, and cultural barriers.

What’s the next step?

Promoting mental health of immigrant women requires a holistic approach to addressing mental health determinants at all individual and social levels with respect to research, education, practice, and policy.

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