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Work in progress

An Immigrants’ paradox in mental health? a life-course approach

Literature on immigrants’ mental health identifies a paradox. Assimilation theories would expect immigrants’ mental health to improve with tenure in the destination country, as their socioeconomic position improves. To the contrary, several studies found that immigrants often have better mental health than natives upon arrival, but they lose this advantage with tenure. While the former is explained by positive selection, the latter has been explained through cumulative exposure to disadvantage. However, previous literature mostly relies on cross-sectional data, and the few longitudinal studies have not disentangled the effect of ageing from that of tenure. In this article, using data from waves 1-11 of Understanding Society, I use panel data analysis to estimate immigrants-natives differences in mental health trajectories. Results indicate that ageing has a stronger negative effect for natives’ mental health than for immigrants’. This leaves us with a new puzzle: (why) is being an immigrant protective for mental health?

A scarring effect of having been left behind: Experience of transnational family separation and mental health in immigrant adults

Despite evidence that transnational family separation is a common experience in many high emigration countries and their diaspora, quantitative literature exploring the consequences of this phenomenon on the mental health of the individuals who experience(d) it in the context of migrations to Europe is still limited. Qualitative and quantitative evidence from other migration chains indicates that transnational family separation can have long term detrimental consequences on separated children, even after (and if) they reunite with their parents in the destination country. In this article, I investigate whether this holds in the UK. Using Understanding Society data, I test whether adult immigrants who experienced transnational family separation before moving to the UK have worse mental health than immigrants who moved with their parents as children or youth. Results indicate that women who experienced transnational family separation in childhood/youth tend to have worse mental health than those who migrated with their parents, even long after reunification, while no difference is found between men who did or did not experience transnational family separation. These results stress the importance of further developing (quantitative) research on the association between transnational family separation and mental health in Europe, and of considering the wellbeing of immigrants and of their families in immigration policymaking.