Brexit causing mental health problems for migrants, research says

Migrants were found to have suffered an increase in discrimination and anxiety problems

FILE PHOTO: A passenger bus passes a pro-Brexit demonstration in Westminster, London, Britain, September 30, 2019.  REUTERS/Peter Nicholls/File Photo
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Migrants in the UK have experienced an increase in discrimination and mental health issues because of Brexit, a study has found.

According to research from University College London, migrants reported a rise in symptoms of Generalised Anxiety Disorder, which is characterised by a feeling of unease such as worry or fear, following the UK’s highly divisive decision to leave the European Union.

Those in areas that had a higher percentage of Brexit supporters were more likely to suffer from discrimination that, in turn, increased the chance of suffering from anxiety. The UK is set to leave the EU on October 31.

“Policymakers interested in protecting and improving the mental health of migrants need to be aware of how the pursuit of referenda aimed at reducing and controlling migration creates a social climate that can be detrimental to the mental health of migrants,” the report said.

Migrants were characterised as those living in the UK but were born from outside the country. People from the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand were excluded because they were seen has experience “privileged status” in the UK “due to shared language, culture and positive portrayal in the EU referendum”.

Being white and from an EU country was associated with lower levels of discrimination. Generally speaking, it was also found that referenda on the rights of minorities can be harmful to mental health.

“Clinicians may have to contend with higher levels of mental health problems in the United Kingdom’s migrant population and may benefit from an awareness of how various aspects of the post-Brexit social climate can contribute to heightened anxiety and other forms of psychological distress,” the report said.

“Further, the present study adds to a small but growing international body of evidence indicating that the social climate emerging from voter referenda on the rights of minority groups can be damaging for the mental health of minority groups by increasing exposure to social stress in the form of discrimination.”

During 2016 pro-Brexit campaigners focused much of their attention on unrestricted migration from the EU. Politicians such as Nigel Farage, a key figure in the Leave campaign and current leader of the Brexit Party used terms such as “taking back control” on immigration controls that were decided in Brussels and left the UK at a “breaking point”.

He was accused of scaremongering and stoking tensions.

EU, European Economic Area and Swiss citizens planning to stay in the UK after Brexit must now apply for settled status if they want to remain. Previously they could come and go without having to apply for residency.