Implementing Research on the Impact of Social Isolation on Refugee Children and Youth: Their Resilience and Coping Mechanisms

Researchers: Akm Alamgir1, 2, Christopher Kyriakides2, Andrew Johnson3, Abeshu Gemechu2
Access Alliance1, York University2, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH)3
Research Partner: Access Alliance, CAMH
Keywords: refugee children, refugee youth, social isolation, COVID-19, lockdown, mental health, wellbeing, resilience, coping strategies, peer researchers, systematic review
Jump to: Methodology, Findings, Recommendations, Publications & Reports


Overview: This study examined the effects of social isolation on refugee youth’s wellbeing and their coping strategies during the COVID-19 pandemic. The research team engaged youth with lived experience as peer co-researchers in conducting a systematic review of the literature.

Objective: to understand the effects of prolonged social isolation on the health and wellbeing of refugee youth; to explore the coping strategies youth have used throughout the COVID-19 pandemic; and to create a model of resilience for refugee populations during similar situations.

Research Justification: Long-term lockdowns and social isolation due to the COVID-19 pandemic are unprecedented experiences which may have severe negative effects on refugee youth’s wellbeing. Community stakeholders, including refugee children, youth, and families, service providers, school boards, researchers, policy makers, and community organizations, will benefit from a better understanding of youth’s experiences and their coping strategies.


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The research team conducted a peer-engaged systematic literature review between March 2022 and February 2023 following Cochrane Review principles and PRISMA structure. Eight databases, including Medline (Ovid), Embase (Ovid), APA PsycINFO (Ovid), and CINAHL, were included. Open access databases were searched by snowball sampling from the bibliography of the searched articles. The findings were shared with peers in the community for validation.


Social isolation impacted five dimensions of refugee youth’s health:

Youth used various coping strategies throughout the COVID-19 pandemic:

A model of resilience for refugee youth during prolonged social isolation includes the following mediators: A feeling of inclusion, being flexible to accommodate challenges, a practice of collaboration with family and community, and capitalizing on coping skills used in previous traumatic experiences


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