Non-western First-generation Immigrant Women’s Musculoskeletal Pain and/or Depression Disorders, and the Impact of this on their Integration Process into Norwegian Society
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Objective: The study examined the health problems among non-Western first-generation immigrant women and its effect on their integration into Norwegian society. It was framed by Ager and Strang’s conceptual framework of integration and symbolic interaction theory. Design: It employed a qualitative design using participant observation and unstructured interviews. Setting: The study was conducted at All-female community health center in Oslo, a non-profit organization for women only. The center cares for women who feel lonely and chronically ill and have been encouraged by doctors to be physically and socially active. Participants: It included a total of eight immigrant women from three different continents of Western Asia, South America, and North Africa, who were suffering from musculoskeletal and depression disorders. Methods: The study used participant observation and unstructured interviews to collect data. The data were collected through participating in the daily activities of immigrants at the center, followed by unstructured interviews. Results: Musculoskeletal and depression disorders were perceived to have a significant negative impact on the integration process into Norwegian society. The findings explored the challenges faced by immigrant women, including a lack of understanding of their health problems on the part of their work colleagues and boss, feeling unwanted and excluded, being treated not fairly, getting extra work duties, and being unable to secure permanent jobs. In addition, they could not cope with the cold weather, facing discrimination at work, and difficulty in speaking Norwegian. The majority of the women experienced lack of sleep, poor health, lack of social support, and cultural differences. Such problems led the women to withdraw from society, to feel lonely and affected their ability to interact with others in the social circle. The participants were working in an unhealthy work environment—they engaged in jobs that are physically demanding thus contributing to their poor physical and mental health and hindered them from actively entering the labour market. Conclusion: The findings from this study support previous research on the prevalence of physical pain among immigrant women and the connection between the physical and mental issues which trigger various challenges that make the integration process into the host society difficult.