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Exploring Contextual Effects of Post-migration Housing Environment on Mental Health of Asylum Seekers and Refugees: A Crosssectional, Population-Based, Multi-Level Analysis in a German Federal State

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Amir Mohsenpour, Louise Biddle, Kayvan Bozorgmehr

In: PLoS Global Public Health 3 (2023), 12, e0001755, 17 S.


Asylum seekers and refugees (ASR) in Germany are dispersed quasi-randomly to state provided,collective accommodation centres. We aimed to analyse contextual effects of post-migration housing environment on their mental health. We drew a balanced random sample of 54 from 1 938 accommodation centres with 70 634 ASR in Germany’s 3rd largest federal state. Individual-level data on depression and anxiety as well as sociodemographic and asylum-related covariates, were collected and linked to contextual geo-referenced dataon housing environment (‘Small-area Housing Environment Deterioration’ index, number of residents, remoteness, urbanity, and German Index of Multiple Deprivation). We fitted two level random-intercept models to exploratively estimate adjusted contextual effects. Of 411 surveyed participants, 45.53% and 44.83%, respectively, reported symptoms of depression or anxiety. 52.8% lived in centres with highest deterioration, 46.2% in centres with > = 50 residents, 76.9% in urban, and 56% in deprived districts. 7.4% of centres were remote. We found statistically significant clustering in reporting anxiety on the level of accommodation centres. The model resulted in an intraclass correlation of 0.16 which translated into a median odds ratio of 2.10 for the accommodation-level effects. No significant clustering wasfound for symptoms of depression. The highest degree of deterioration, large accommodation size, remoteness, and district urbanity showed higher, but statistically not significant, odds for reporting anxiety or depression. District deprivation demonstrated higher odds for anxiety and lower odds for depression yet remained statistically insignificant for both. Evidence for contextual effects of housing environment on mental health of ASR could not be established but residual confounding by length of stay in the accommodation centre cannot be ruled out. Confirmatory analyses with prior power calculations are needed to complement these exploratory estimates.

Louise Biddle

Research Associate in the German Socio-Economic Panel study Department

Topics: Migration, Health