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01.12.2012 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2012 Open Access

BMC International Health and Human Rights 1/2012

Forced residential mobility and social support: impacts on psychiatric disorders among Somali migrants

BMC International Health and Human Rights > Ausgabe 1/2012
Kamaldeep Bhui, Salaad Mohamud, Nasir Warfa, Sarah Curtis, Stephen Stansfeld, Tom Craig
Wichtige Hinweise

Electronic supplementary material

The online version of this article (doi:10.​1186/​1472-698X-12-4) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
Nasir Warfa, Sarah Curtis, Stephen Stansfeld contributed equally to this work.

Competing interests

The authors declare that they have no competing interests.

Authors' contributions

KB was the PI, designed the study and secured funding with SAS, TK, SC. NW and SM were employed as researchers to gather the data under the supervision of KB, TC, SC. KB and TC undertook and supervised the statistical analyses, and KB wrote the first and consecutive drafts of the paper with input from the other authors. SM and NW also included some of the data from the overall study in their PhD theses, under the supervision of KB and TC.



Somali migrants fleeing the civil war in their country face punishing journeys, the loss of homes, possessions, and bereavement. On arrival in the host country they encounter poverty, hostility, and residential instability which may also undermine their mental health.


An in-depth and semi-structured interview was used to gather detailed accommodation histories for a five year period from 142 Somali migrants recruited in community venues and primary care. Post-codes were verified and geo-mapped to calculate characteristics of residential location including deprivation indices, the number of moves and the distances between residential moves. We asked about the reasons for changing accommodation, perceived discrimination, asylum status, traumatic experiences, social support, employment and demographic factors. These factors were assessed alongside characteristics of residential mobility as correlates of ICD-10 psychiatric disorders.


Those who were forced to move homes were more likely to have an ICD-10 psychiatric disorder (OR = 2.64, 1.16-5.98, p = 0.02) compared with those moving through their own choice. A lower risk of psychiatric disorders was found for people with larger friendship networks (0.35, 0.14-0.84, p = 0.02), for those with more confiding emotional support (0.42, 0.18-1.0, p = 0.05), and for those who had not moved during the study period (OR = 0.21, 0.07-0.62, p = 0.01).


Forced residential mobility is a risk factor for psychiatric disorder; social support may contribute to resilience against psychiatric disorders associated with residential mobility.
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