Reference: Marchi, M., Magarini, F.M., Chiarenza, A., Galeazzi, G.M., Paloma, V., Garrido, R., et al. (2022). Experience of discrimination during COVID-19 pandemic: the impact of public health measures and psychological distress among refugees and other migrants in Europe. BMC Public Health 22, 942. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-022-13370-y.
Abstract: Background. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionately hard impact on refugees and other migrants who are often exposed to the virus with limited means to protect themselves. We tested the hypothesis that during the COVID-19 pandemic, refugees and other migrants have suffered a negative impact on mental health and have been unjustly discriminated for spreading the disease in Europe (data collection from April to November 2020).
Methods. Participants in the ApartTogether Survey (N = 8297, after listwise deletion of missing items final N = 3940) provided data regarding to their difficulties to adhere to preventive recommendations against COVID-19 infection (CARE), self-perceived stigmatization (SS), and psychological distress (PD). Structural Equation Modeling was used to investigate PD as a mediator in the pathway linking CARE to SS, while adjusting for the housing and residence status. To improve confidence in the findings, single hold-out sample cross-validation was performed using a train/test split ratio of 0.8/0.2.
Results. In the exploratory set (N = 3159) SS was associated with both CARE (B = 0.200, p < 0.001) and PD (B = 0.455, p < 0.001). Moreover, PD was also associated with CARE (B = 0.094, p = 0.001) and mediated the effect of CARE on SS (proportion mediated = 17.7%, p = 0.001). The results were successfully replicated in the confirmation set (N = 781; total effect = 0.417, p < 0.001; proportion mediated = 29.7%, p < 0.001). Follow-up analyses also found evidence for an opposite effect (i.e., from SS to CARE, B = 0.132; p < 0.001), suggesting that there might be a vicious circle between the self-perceived stigmatization and the access to health care and the use of preventive measures against COVID-19 infection.
Conclusions. Refugees and other migrants who had more difficulties in accessing health care and preventive measures against COVID-19 infection experienced worse mental health and increased discrimination. These negative effects appeared to be stronger for those with more insecure housing and residence status, highlighting from one side the specific risk of insecure housing in the impact of COVID-19 upon mental health and infection protection, and for another side the need to proper housing as a strategy to prevent both COVID-19 and mental distress.
Keywords: COVID-19, Migrants, Social stigma, Mental health, Public health.