Post-Displacement Stressors and mental health of refugees and asylum-seekers


Current project group

PI: Angela Nickerson, PhD, School of Psychology, UNSW Sydney, Australia, e-mail: a.nickerson -AT- unsw.edu.au

Elizabeth Newnham, School of Psychology, Curtin University, Australia; Frank Neuner, Department of Psychology, University of Bielefeld, Germany; Andrew Rasmussen, Psychology Department, Fordham University, United States; Belinda Liddell, School of Psychology, UNSW Sydney, Australia


There are currently over 70 million forcibly displaced persons worldwide, with more than 29 million of these being refugees and asylum-seekers (UNHCR, 2019). Rates of psychological disorders are elevated amongst individuals from a refugee background. It is critical that rigorous research be conducted to understand the factors that influence mental health in refugees and asylum-seekers. The development of an evidence base relating these factors will directly inform policies and practices to support individuals who have been exposed to persecution and displacement.

There is a large body of research attesting to the dose-response relationship between exposure to potentially traumatic events and mental health difficulties. There is growing evidence that exposure to ongoing stressors following displacement has a strong impact on mental health over and above the impact of trauma exposure, with some studies suggesting that the effect of trauma on mental health is mediated or moderated by these stressors. Despite this, a number of limitations associated with the current measurement of these stressors preclude the clear delineation of this relationship. Establishing a rigorous evidence base that addresses the impacts of ongoing stressors on mental health, education, employment, and community engagement is critical to informing best practice and policy for refugee resettlement.


This project proposes to advance knowledge regarding the conceptualization, measurement and impact of ongoing stressors experienced by individuals from a refugee background. Aims of the project include:

  1. Considering the impact of stressors in the post-displacement environment on mental health and other settlement outcomes

  2. The identification of limitations in the current measurement of ongoing stressors in the post-displacement environment

  3. Investigation of the association between the objective and subjective experience of ongoing stressors, and how this relates to mental health in refugees and asylum-seekers

  4. Examination of the role ongoing stressors play in influencing the relationship between exposure to potentially traumatic events and mental health in refugees and asylum-seekers

  5. Refining current instruments used to index ongoing stressors in refugees and asylum-seekers.

  6. Providing an evidence base to inform the development of policy and service provision for refugees and asylum-seekers

in prep


in prep


United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). (2019). 2018 Global Report. Geneva, Switzerland: UNHCR