Methods: Using a snowball sampling strategy, this study recruited 237 Somali refugee youth in Eastleigh, an urban area in Nairobi, Kenya. A cross-sectional survey questionnaire (available in both English and Somali) included questions on physical health status, mental health symptoms, religious beliefs, psychosocial factors, and demographic characteristics. This study conducted descriptive and bivariate analyses, followed by a series of logistic regression models, with a pre-established significance level of 0.05. A moderated mediation was conducted to analyze the effect of social support on physical health via religious belief. All analyses were conducted using IBM SPSS Statistics 27.
Results: Three logistic regressions were conducted to analyze factors (IVs) for male, female, and all participants: age, country of birth, religious belief, perceived social support, and somatic symptoms on physical health status (DV). Results showed that religious belief was significant in predicting the physical health status of the total sample (p= 0.010, CI: 1.146, 2.794) and somatic symptoms were significant in influencing the physical health status of the total sample (p =0.013, CI: 0.881, 0.985). When separated by gender, somatic symptoms were found to be significant in predicting physical health status in the women-only sample (p <0.05, CI: 0.862, 0.993). In the men-only sample, religious belief was a significant predictor of physical health status (p<0.05, CI: 1.143, 9.910), and social support was a significant predictor of physical health status (p<0.05, CI: 0.905, 1.379).
Conclusion: This study revealed that religious belief is a strong predictor of physical health status among male participants, whereas trauma-related somatic symptoms (i.e., mental ill-health) likely have more devastating impacts on physical health among female Somali refugee youth. This study has implications for future studies about how to approach and assess physical health and relevant psychosocial factors, including culturally responsive and relevant coping and the intricate relationship between physical and mental health through somatoform symptom reports. Results also highlight the integral role of gender-sensitive and gender-specific interventions to promote health among Somali refugee youth. Further implications for social work practice and policy will be discussed.