The relationship between employment and health for people from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds: A systematic review of quantitative studies

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Abstract

Background: For the general population, the positive effects of paid employment on health and wellbeing are well established. However, less is known for people from refugee and asylum-seeking backgrounds. This review aims to systematically summarise the quantitative literature on the relationship between employment and health and wellbeing for refugees and asylum seekers. Method: A search strategy was conducted in online databases, including MEDLINE, PsychINFO, EMCARE, SCOPUS, CINHAL, ProQuest and Web of Science. Articles were screened against inclusion and exclusion criteria. Studies published in English between 2000 to October 2021 were included if they used quantitative methods to consider the relationship between employment and health for refugees and asylum seekers in resettlement countries. Study quality was assessed using The Joanna Briggs Institute's Critical Appraisal Tools. Findings were synthesised using a narrative approach. Results: Seventy-two papers were identified. The majority of papers (N = 58, 81%) examined the association between employment and mental health outcomes. Overall, while there were inconsistencies in the findings, employment had a positive effect on mental health particularly in reducing levels of psychological distress and depression. Though more limited in number, the papers examining physical health suggest that people who are employed tend to have better physical health than unemployed persons. There was some evidence to support the bi-directional relationship between employment and health. Poor mental and physical health negatively impacted the odds of employment and occupational status of refugees. Conclusion: Good quality employment is an essential component of refugee resettlement and this review found that in general employment is also beneficial for refugee health, particularly aspects of mental health. More research regarding the effects of employment on physical health is required. The effects of refugee-specific factors such as gender roles, torture, and trauma on the relationship between employment and health also require further investigation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101075
Number of pages25
JournalSSM - Population Health
Volume18
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

Keywords

  • Asylum seeker
  • Employment
  • Occupational health
  • Refugee
  • Social determinants of health

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