Trick or treat? The Brexit effect on immigrants’ mental health in the United Kingdom

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This paper investigates changes in the mental health of immigrants living in the United Kingdom (UK) during the European Union (EU) referendum. Using the UK Household Longitudinal Study, this paper assesses how the mental health of immigrants has changed before and after the referendum, compared to natives. Findings suggest that following the EU referendum result, mental health significantly improved overall for naturalised immigrants as a whole and for non-EU immigrants, relative to the changes in natives. Further, there is no evidence that mental health worsened even for EU immigrants. Our results vary by gender, with non-EU women experiencing a statistically significant improvement in mental health. The results are robust to several checks, including using balanced panel data and individual fixed effects. Our findings are consistent with the idea that the end of free movement for EU immigrants has alleviated the perception of discrimination against non-EU immigrants. This interpretation is supported by empirical results from a multinomial logit showing that non-EU migrants, particularly women, are more likely to perceive discrimination for race-related reasons when denied a job, an effect which is no longer significant in the post-referendum period.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104660
JournalEuropean Economic Review
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jan 2024


  • Brexit referendum
  • Discrimination
  • Immigration
  • Mental health


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