A systematic review of risk and protective factors of mental health in unaccompanied minor refugees

In recent years, there has been a rising interest in the mental health of unaccompanied minor refugees (UMR), who are a high-risk group for mental disorders. Especially the investigation of predictive factors of the mental health of young refugees has received increasing attention. However, there has been no review on this current issue for the specific group of UMR so far.


We aimed to summarize and evaluate the existing findings of specific risk and protective factors to identify the most verified influences on the mental health of UMR. Therefore, we conducted a systematic literature search. Study designs were limited to quantitative cross-sectional and longitudinal designs. Eight databases were searched in four different languages and article reference lists of relevant papers were screened. 27 studies were included (N = 4753). Qualitative synthesis revealed the number of stressful life events to be the most evaluated and verified risk factor for mental health of UMR. A stable environment and social support, on the other hand, can protect UMR from developing poor mental health. Besides that, several other influencing factors could be pointed out, such as type of accommodation, family contact, gender and cultural competences. Because of the large heterogeneity of outcome measures, quantitative synthesis was not possible.


This review helps to improve our understanding of determinants of UMRs mental health and thus to provide more targeted treatment. Furthermore, it provides information on how to prevent the development of mental health problems by specifying factors that can be modified by different health and immigration sectors in advance. Further research is needed focusing on the interaction between the various predictive factors.

Edgar Höhne, Anna Swantje van der Meer, Inge Kamp-Becker & Hanna Christiansen | 2022
In: European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry ; ISSN: 1018-8827 | 31 | August | 1-15
Mental health, Migrants, Predisposition, Systematic Review, Unaccompanied Minors