A scoping review of the relationship between physical activity and mental health among immigrants in western countries: an integrated bio-psycho-socio-cultural lens

Sarah Elshahat*, Tina Moffat, Mahira Morshed, Haneen Alkhawaldeh, Keon Madini, Aya Mohamed, Naya Nadeem, Sara Emira, K. Bruce Newbold, Michael Donnelly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Epidemiological evidence suggests that regular physical activity (PA) positively impacts individuals’ mental health (MH). The PA-MH relationship may be critical among immigrants owing to psycho-social-cultural influences. This scoping review of 61 studies employed a holistic bio-psycho-socio-cultural framework to thoroughly investigate the complex relationship between PA (across life domains) and immigrants’ MH in Western countries. A systematic search of five electronic databases (Medline, PubMed, Embase, PsycINFO and Anthropology Plus) was conducted to locate relevant articles. No limitations were applied to study design, age, gender, home country, MH condition or PA type. A bio-psycho-socio-cultural-informed conceptual model guided the analysis of the multi-domain PA-MH relationship. Immigrant PA-MH studies were conducted and reported most commonly in the USA (38%), Australia (18%), and Canada (11%). Overall, PA was positively related to MH. Each domain-specific PA appeared to be associated with unique MH-promoting pathways/mechanisms. Leisure-related PA may support MH by enhancing self-agency and minimizing risky behaviours, whilst travel- and domestic-related PA may promote self-accomplishment and physical engagement. Ethnic sports appeared to enhance resilience. Occupational-related PA was associated with either positive or negative MH, depending on the type of occupation. A bio-psycho-socio-cultural-informed model is required to gain an encompassing and integrated understanding of immigrants’ health. The first iteration of such a model is presented here, along with an illustration of how the model may be used to deepen analysis and understanding of the multi-domain PA-MH relationship among immigrants and inform public health planners and practitioners.

Original languageEnglish
Journal Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health
Early online date04 Jul 2023
DOIs
Publication statusEarly online date - 04 Jul 2023

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