Participants across multiple studies said that social contact improved their feelings of self-worth and helped alleviate some stress. This meant positive interactions with non-migrant neighbours, as well as people who spoke the same language or were from the same country of origin. Refugees described friends as a source of happiness, a way to fight the effects of trauma, moral support, and a form of therapy and mutual understanding.
Young people noted that expressing their cultural identity, particularly at school and through role models, improved their mental health. Refugee parents settling in Australia expressed concern about the need for their child to protect their culture and, at the same time, adapt to Australia.
Finally, structural elements impacted health and wellbeing too: this included visa rights and policies, the resourcing of support services, education and employment opportunities, and racism and discrimination. Achieving refugee status was associated with stability, which reduced worry and stress. In Australia, access to universal health care once resettled had positive impacts on mental health. Unemployed refugees experienced higher rates of psychological distress and poverty-induced physical health impacts.
Discrimination and racism based on skin colour, literacy level or accent, or for Muslim girls and women, wearing a hijab, caused significant mental health stress. One Australian study recorded an incident of verbal abuse on public transport.