Psychological Impact of Immigration & Assimilation

Instructor: Emily Cummins
What happens when immigrants arrive in a new country? In this lesson, we'll talk about the psychological impacts of immigration, including mental health issues and a loss of culture and identity.


People leave their home country and immigrate to other places for many different reasons. When you move to a new country, it can be a difficult experience with many challenges. It can be difficult to find your place in a new country and fit in with an unfamiliar culture. Assimilation is the term sociologists use to describe the way that immigrants are incorporated into the society they move to. Assimilation has been used in different ways. In some senses, it refers to the different cultural and ethnic characteristics that immigrants bring to a society. But it can also refer to the ways that immigrants are expected to adopt the culture and characteristics of the dominant society.

What happens when immigrants arrive in their new home?
mental health; immigration; assmiliation

What happens when there is the expectation for immigrants to adopt to a new culture and country? In this lesson, we'll talk about some of the psychological impacts that immigrants face when they leave their country and come to a new place.

Culture and Identity

First, it's important to understand that culture is very connected to our identity. Our cultural beliefs and values are shared and shape our identity in important ways. Culture is learned through the place we grow up in. So when we leave a culture behind and have to encounter new cultural systems and meanings, it can be very difficult and can feel like a loss of identity. As we assimilate to a new culture we might feel like we're losing our old culture. Think about how you might feel if you were no longer connected to the language, religion, foods, or beliefs that you grew up with. Arriving in a new country can feel vey disorienting. Scholars have called this process deculturation, meaning a loss of culture.

Psychological Impacts

Researchers have also indicated that there are very clear psychological impacts that result from immigration and assimilation. For some immigrants, assimilation can lead to depression and related mental health challenges. Immigrants can experience feelings of anxiety when they have to try and learn a new language, find a new job, or navigate hostility toward different ethnic groups in a new society. In serious cases, a loss of cultural identity can result in higher incidence of mental disorders like schizophrenia in some migrant groups.

We should also make a distinction between immigrants and refugees. Individuals who have fled politically volatile or violent situations as refugees tend to be more likely to experience serious mental health issues than those who immigrate to a country under different circumstances. However, studies have found that the experience of racism and discrimination negatively impact health of both immigrants and refugees. This can lead to what sociologists call marginalization, where certain groups are made inferior in society. Basically, marginalized groups are pushed to the edges of society and face inequality, discrimination, and lack of resources.

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