Immigrant and Refugee Youth Mental Health in Canada: A Scoping Review of Empirical Literature

  • Attia Khan
  • Nazilla Khanlou
  • Jacqueline Stol
  • Vicky Tran
Part of the Advances in Mental Health and Addiction book series (AMHA)



The overall health of new immigrants appears generally better than mainstream Canadians. Longer duration of stay in Canada and effects of lower quality of social determinants of health may lead to loss in this health advantage. In what ways does this health advantage pattern extend to mental health of immigrant and refugee youth?


Using an intersectionality approach and adopting Arksey and O’Malley’s five-stage framework (2005) for scoping reviews, we reviewed published peer-reviewed primary studies on immigrant and refugee youth mental health in Canada from January1995 to December 2015. The purpose of the review was to explore the effects of multiple intersecting social identities, such as gender, race/ethnicity, culture, age, migrant status and social class on migrant youth mental health at individual, family and societal level. Using a combination of search terms, six electronic databases were searched. Fourteen studies met the eligibility criteria.


Three broad themes were identified: (1) determinants of mental health, (2) coping and adaptation and (3) racism and discrimination. School adjustment, parent–child and peer relationship, intra-personal conflict and perceived discrimination significantly influenced for migrant youth mental health and well-being. Family, school and cultural connectedness reduced settlement stress, promoted resilience and improved mental health.

Implications on Policy and Practice

To respond to the mental health needs of migrant youth and their families, there is a need to (1) take a ‘whole community approach’, (2) increase access and support to school-based programs and (3) promote, fund and integrate (into school, health and social systems) a diversity of values and beliefs—cultural and language competencies, anti-racist and anti-oppressive policies.


Intersectionality Scoping review Mental health Mental illness Immigrant youth Refugee youth 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Attia Khan
    • 1
  • Nazilla Khanlou
    • 1
  • Jacqueline Stol
    • 2
  • Vicky Tran
    • 2
  1. 1.Faculty of HealthYork UniversityTorontoCanada
  2. 2.Carleton UniversityOttawaCanada

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