Hostile environmental policies are linked to long-term suffering for people of black Caribbean ancestry

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In the wake of the 2014 Immigration Act and the Windrush scandal, mental distress has increased among black Caribbean people in Britain compared to the white population, a new study by UCL researchers has found. found.

The researchers described their findings as follows: lancet psychiatrysuggesting a causal relationship between government policies and subsequent declines in mental health.

They were investigating the impact of the 2014 Immigration Act, which requires landlords, employers, the NHS, banks and police to check residency documents. It is a key part of a package of measures known as the Home Office’s Hostile Environment Policy, which seeks to target people who remain in the UK without taking leave.

The research team also responded to reports since late 2017 showing how the British government had unfairly detained or threatened British nationals from the Caribbean with deportation in previous years. , we also specifically investigated the impact of the Windrush incident.

The research team used longitudinal data from 58,087 people in the Understanding Society Cohort Study. This cohort study included a diverse group of study participants, including more than 2,000 Black Caribbean individuals. Participants regularly completed questionnaires to screen for mental health problems. This questionnaire was used in the study as a measure of overall psychological distress, including symptoms of depression and anxiety.

The findings showed that since 2014, psychological distress among black Caribbean people in the UK has increased compared to white study participants. This difference is a 0.7 point drop in mental health on a scale of 1 to 36, which is greater than the decline in mental health seen across the UK population during the first Covid-19 lockdown. Although slightly larger, the increase in psychological distress among Black Caribbean residents continued for several years due to the effects of lockdown.

After the Windrush scandal broke, black Caribbean study participants experienced a greater increase in psychological distress than their white counterparts.

Further analysis revealed that while the 2014 Act had a greater impact on first-generation black Caribbean immigrants, media coverage of the Windrush scandal had a greater impact on British Caribbean immigrants.

Researchers say the findings suggest that government policy and the Windrush scandal were linked to greater psychological distress among black Caribbean people in the UK. .

Researchers found no similar effects for other ethnic groups, although hostile environmental policies may have had similar effects on some ethnic groups, but they They cautioned that the measures of psychological distress used may have overlooked harms such as moral injury and psychosocial disenfranchisement.

Lead author Dr Annie Jeffrey (UCL Psychiatry) said: “Our study shows that governments’ hostile environmental policies are causing serious harm, in addition to other well-documented harms such as deportations, unemployment and evictions. “It highlights the harm this has done to mental health for certain groups of people.” , and discrimination.

“The mental health impacts may result from the direct impact of these threats on people’s homes and livelihoods, but they are also faced by groups that already experience systemic and sometimes institutionalized racism. “Discrimination may also arise from an awareness of broader and pervasive racial injustice and prejudice.”

“When the Windrush scandal hit the news, there may have been a risk of re-traumatization for some people, but even those who were not directly affected experienced some kind of vicarious trauma and You may have experienced fear of what might happen to you.”

Lead author Professor James Kirkbride (UCL Psychiatry) said: “Our findings show that government policy can create, maintain and exacerbate systemic inequalities in mental health. “

“Policymakers should consider the impact of immigration policies on mental health. Immigration policies should not only affect future immigrants and those without residence permits, but also those already legally settled in the country. mental health inequalities, so policies should be designed to minimize all harms, including ‘mental health inequalities. ”

Co-author Professor Gianluca Bio (UCL Department of Statistical Science) said: “Our analysis is based on a combination of a quasi-experimental design (called interrupted time series) and appropriate statistical methods, which eliminates potential confounders and “We can certainly limit the influence of bias.” Our results therefore suggest a strong causal relationship between the political environment and subsequent mental health outcomes. ”

For more information:
The impact of immigration policy reform on the mental health of people from ethnic minority groups in the UK: An interrupted time series analysis of longitudinal data from the UK Household Longitudinal Study Cohort, lancet psychiatry (2024). DOI: 10.1016/S2215-0366(23)00412-1

Magazine information:
lancet psychiatry

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