Does social capital reduce the psychological distress and improve the wellbeing of asylum seekers? Evidence from Israel

Yifat Faran, Lea Zanbar, Vered Slonim-Nevo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

The living difficulties of asylum seekers in receiving countries may impair their mental health. Based on the Social Capital Theory, the current study sought to identify social factors that might reduce their psychological distress and improve their wellbeing. A sample of 227 Darfuri asylum seekers in Israel aged 19–58 completed a questionnaire assessing the outcomes of psychological distress and wellbeing, and the predictors of post-migration living difficulties, number of asylum seeker and Israeli friends, perceived social support, and volunteering in community activity for asylum seekers. The findings show that whereas perceived social support was associated with reduced psychological distress and increased wellbeing (and the latter also associated with number of Israeli friends), the number of asylum seeker friends was associated with increased psychological distress and reduced wellbeing. Moreover, both factors moderated the association between living difficulties and psychological distress, that is, it was significant only at higher levels of these factors. Volunteering in community activity also moderated this association. The results suggest that having friends is not enough to improve wellbeing and may even have the opposite effect when friends share similar adversities. However, friends who are available to offer support can contribute to improved wellbeing. Similarly, volunteering in community activity may reduce the individual's own welfare, as it exposes them to the adversities of others. Thus, while some social capital indicators are beneficial, others might have a detrimental effect. The results indicate the need to strengthen the social contacts of asylum seekers while paying attention to the potential cost.

Original languageEnglish
Article number101777
JournalInternational Journal of Intercultural Relations
Volume93
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2023

Keywords

  • Asylum seekers
  • Perceived social support
  • Psychological distress
  • Volunteering in community activity
  • Wellbeing

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