Multisystemic Resilience and Psychosocial Wellbeing among Older Refugees: A Systematic Review with Implications for Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS)

Julie A. Tippens, Sarah Erwin, Kari Eller, R. Marie Dutra Gross, Brittany Bearss, Blakelee Kemp, Elizabeth Mollard, Lucy Njiru, Patrick Okwarah, Angela L. Palmer-Wackerly, Alice Lakati

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Older refugees experience poor mental and emotional health outcomes compared to younger counterparts. Although older adults are instrumental in family/community adjustment in postmigration settings, little is known about how to enhance psychosocial resilience in this population. The aim of this systematic review is to glean deeper insight into the protective factors and processes associated with older refugees’ resilience and positive psychosocial health in postmigration settings. We searched eight electronic health and social science databases. Twenty-three articles met the criteria for inclusion; we analyzed these using a multisystemic resilience lens. Studies spanned 1991 to 2022; importantly, 15 of the 23 articles were published in the past decade, indicating growing attention to the mental and psychosocial health of older refugees. Only six of the included articles focused on older refugees living in low- and middle-income countries, revealing a contrast between where most of the world’s refugees reside and where the majority of mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) research is conducted. We found tremendous variation in determinants of psychosocial resilience based on the politico-historical contexts of migration; sociocultural backgrounds of refugees; and distinct postmigration needs, resources, and settings. Broadly, macrosystem determinants of resilience included security, access to basic services, and maintenance of culture and spirituality. Mesosystem factors were related to social support from families, ethnic communities, religious networks, and host country nationals. Finally, microsystem determinants of older refugees’ resilience included language acquisition, cognitive reappraisal, and sense of optimism. Our findings suggest the importance of interdisciplinary, multilevel research designs to highlight how multiple ecosystems interact to promote psychosocial resilience among older refugees. Taken together, this systematic review offers important insight into multilevel protective factors and processes to enhance culturally and contextually meaningful MHPSS for older refugees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1152-1170
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Immigrant and Minority Health
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • Aging
  • Cross-cultural gerontology
  • Mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS)
  • Older adults
  • Refugees

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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