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Xenophobia Does Not Affect Migrants' Happiness, Study

Update Date: Apr 05, 2013 12:42 PM EDT

A new study reveals that xenophobia has no affect on the happiness of migrants.  Instead, unemployment and health problems are the biggest reasons why migrants feel less happy than average, according to the study.

Researchers presenting their study Friday at the British Sociological Association's annual conference in London said that economic factors like as unemployment, low income and health problems were found to be the strongest predictor of lowered wellbeing.

Researchers Professor Andreas Hadjar and Susanne Backes looked at 32,000 first or second-generation migrants and 164,700 non-migrants in 30 European countries.  The data was from the European Social Survey.

Researchers found that migrants who moved to countries where people expressed negative views about immigrants scored around 2 percent lower on their wellbeing assessment than the rest of the population in that country.  Researchers said this finding was not significant.

However, migrants who were unemployed were almost 7 percent less happy, migrants who earned low wages were about 11 percent less happy and those with health problems were about 9 percent less happy. Researchers said the effect employment and health has on wellbeing was significant.

The study also found that the longer migrants had been in the country also affected their happiness.  Researchers found that first generation migrants living for less than 10 years in a new country scored around 7 percent lower than the rest of the population, while those who lived for 10 or more years in a new country scored around 3.5 percent lower on their wellbeing than non-migrants.

Interestingly, they found that the richer the country the migrants had moved into, the less likely they were to be equally as happy as the rest of the country's population.  However, researchers noted that the higher a country's commitment to equal rights for migrants and non-migrants, the happier were the migrants.

Older migrants were unhappier than their younger counterparts.  The study found that migrants aged 41 to 60 were the least happy, reporting a score of 6 percent less than those aged 22 to 30.

"Xenophobia showed no significant impact on the difference between migrant groups and non-migrants on subjective wellbeing," researchers said in a news release.

Researchers suggest that this may be because xenophobia lowers the happiness of both the migrants and the rest of society. Therefore, the gap between migrants' and others' well-being does not increase.

"Both unemployment and deprivation appear to show strong negative impacts on subjective wellbeing. However, results also show that on average people with migration background do rather well integrating themselves into European societies - particularly in countries with constructive integration policies," researchers noted.

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