Working conditions and mental health of migrants and refugees in Europe considering cultural origin– a systematic review

Herold R, Lieb M, Borho A, Voss A, Unverzagt S, Morawa E, Rothermund E, Erim Y (2024)

Publication Type: Journal article

Publication year: 2024


Book Volume: 24

Article Number: 662

Journal Issue: 1

DOI: 10.1186/s12889-024-18096-7


Background: Migrants and refugees/asylum seekers, as a large part of the European work force, are often confronted with unfavorable working conditions in the host country. Main aim of this systematic review was to compare the association of these working conditions with mental health between migrants and refugees/asylum seekers due to their diverse migration experiences and cultural origins, and between different European host countries. Methods: Systematic search for eligible primary studies was conducted in three electronic databases (PubMed/MEDLINE, PsycINFO and CINAHL) using quantitative study designs written in English, German, French, Italian, Polish, Spanish or Turkish and published from January 1, 2016 to October 27, 2022. Primary health outcomes were diagnosed psychiatric and psychological disorders, suicide and suicide attempts, psychiatric and psychological symptoms, and perceived distress. Secondary health outcomes were more general concepts of mental health such as well-being, life satisfaction and quality of life. Two reviewers independently completed screening, data extraction and the methodological quality assessment of primary studies using the Newcastle-Ottawa-Scale. Descriptive summary of primary studies on working conditions and their relationship with mental health were conducted, comparing migrants and refugees/asylum seekers, migrants and refugees/asylum seekers of different cultural backgrounds (collectivistic and individualistic) and migrants and refugees/asylum seekers living in different host countries. Results: Inclusion criteria were met by 19 primary studies. Voluntary migrants are more likely to experience overqualification in the host country than refugees. In all examined host countries, migrants and refugees suffer from unfavorable working conditions, with migrants from collectivistic countries being slightly at risk compared to migrants from individualistic countries. Most unfavorable working conditions are related to poor mental health, regardless of migrant status, cultural origin or host country. Conclusions: Although the results should be interpreted with caution due to the small number of studies, it is evident that to maintain both the mental health and labor force of migrants and refugees/asylum seekers, their working conditions in host countries should be controlled and improved. Special attention should be paid to specific subgroups such as migrants from collectivistic societies. Ethics and dissemination: This systematic review is excluded from ethical approval because it used previously approved published data from primary studies. Trial registration number: CRD42021244840.

Authors with CRIS profile

Involved external institutions

How to cite


Herold, R., Lieb, M., Borho, A., Voss, A., Unverzagt, S., Morawa, E.,... Erim, Y. (2024). Working conditions and mental health of migrants and refugees in Europe considering cultural origin– a systematic review. BMC Public Health, 24(1).


Herold, Regina, et al. "Working conditions and mental health of migrants and refugees in Europe considering cultural origin– a systematic review." BMC Public Health 24.1 (2024).

BibTeX: Download