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01.12.2019 | Research article | Ausgabe 1/2019 Open Access

BMC Women's Health 1/2019

“Living like I am in Thailand”: stress and coping strategies among Thai migrant masseuses in Oslo, Norway

BMC Women's Health > Ausgabe 1/2019
Naomi Tschirhart, Melanie Straiton, Trygve Ottersen, Andrea S. Winkler
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Migrants experience stress before, during and after migrating to a new country, all of which influences their mental wellbeing. In Norway, migration from Thailand is highly gendered as most Thai migrants are women who migrate to live with their Norwegian spouse. Massage shops, often owned by Thai entrepreneurs, are a locale where women use their cultural knowledge to bridge into the local economy. There is little knowledge about Thai migrant masseuses’ experience of stress in daily life and associated coping strategies. The objective of this inquiry was to examine stressors and coping strategies among Thai migrant masseuses in Oslo, Norway.


We conducted in-depth interviews with 14 Thai migrants who were working as masseuses in Oslo, Norway. We asked participants about their health, experiences of stress, and coping strategies and subsequently analyzed the data using thematic analysis.


Stress in participants’ lives related to settling in, loneliness, finances and spousal relationships. Of these, relationship conflict was the largest source of stress. Women largely embraced self-coping strategies and utilized Thai cultural practices and Buddhist cognitive thinking. Once relationship conflict became untenable, participants fought to change their situation. Limited fluency in Norwegian, Thai stigma about mental health and limited knowledge of the Norwegian health system were barriers to seeking healthcare.


Migrants in our study often adopted “Thainess”, the use of Thai cultural practices and Buddhist cognitive thinking, as a strategy for coping with stress. Preferences for self-coping, mental health stigma, and linguistic competency are important considerations when designing mental wellbeing interventions for Thai women. Use of an interpreter or systems navigator can help overcome language barriers. Clinicians can take detailed case histories to better understand Thai patients’ stress, coping strategies and wellbeing. Health policy makers could consider network approaches, including using Thai health systems navigators to bridge the health system and Thai communities.
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