Substance misuse and help-seeking amongst Polish migrants in Northern Ireland

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Background: The IOM estimated that there 244 million migrants in the world (IOM 2018). Historically, Northern Ireland has been a place where people migrated from. However recently Northern Ireland has experienced positive net migration with a peak from 2004-2010. Migration can affect migrants‟ mental health. One of the documented and notable consequences of mental ill-health can be increased alcohol and substance use. Research has indicated that factors such as the acculturation and assimilation of immigrants may influence substance misuse as well as the stress of moving.
Aims and Objectives: The aims of this study, were to consider the nature and extent of substance use within the Polish community in Northern Ireland. The objectives were to examine factors affecting access to services; clients‟ perceptions and experiences of services; and service providers‟ experiences in delivering drug and alcohol services to immigrant groups. The study was underpinned by a systematic narrative literature review.
Methodology: A mixed methods approach was used. Firstly, a quantitative
questionnaire in Polish was used to gather data from a sample of the general Polish population in (n=231). Secondly, semi-structured interviews were conducted with Polish service users (n=18), and with service providers (n=10). The interviews with the service users were conducted via an interpreter.
Data Analysis: Chi-square correlations, t-tests and Anova‟s were used for
quantitative data analysis on SPSS (Version 14). The information from the qualitative phases was analysed using thematic analysis involving the same interpreter as in data gathering.
Results: A cohort of first generation male Poles increased their alcohol use since
coming to Northern Ireland. Those with a previous alcohol or substance misuse
problem felt that the trauma of migration was a trigger for relapse or potential relapse. Barriers do exist to access and delivery of services in both the statutory and voluntary sector.
Discussion and Conclusion: Health promotion and information on accessing services is needed to guide new migrants through the care pathways of our services. The use of alternative methods of service delivery such as e-health may be more effective than delivering face-to-face talking therapies via an interpreter.
Date of AwardNov 2018
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorBrian Taylor (Supervisor) & Paula McFadden (Supervisor)


  • Mental Health
  • immigration
  • addiction
  • alcohol
  • drugs

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