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Homesickness: A review of the literature

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Synopsis Homesickness has not received due attention from psychological researchers, in spite of the fact that it is of considerable interest to counsellors and care-givers of those who have migrated or moved temporarily or permanently (e.g. immigrants, refugees, students, soldiers). First, this review addresses the definition of homesickness, the possible different kinds of homesickness, its prevalence rate, and symptomatology, Secondly, an overview is given of the theories that account for psychological distress following leaving home. These theories link homesickness with separation-anxiety and loss, the interruption of lifestyle, reduced control, role change, and internal conflict. In addition, the review focuses on: ( i ) studies that show that subjects reporting homesickness differ from non-homesick persons in terms of personality; ( ii ) the analyses of environmental characteristics that may play a crucial role in the onset and course of homesickness. Thirdly, Fisher's (1989) composite model of homesickness, which summarizes key findings of the major studies on homesickness is discussed. Fourthly, methodological issues are addressed. Finally, suggestions for future research are presented and possibilities for interventions are proposed.
... There is wide support for the view that homesickness is a crucial issue affecting expatriates and causing performance issues in international organisations. Homesickness, an experienced condition of distress, affects people who are away from their usual habitation, navigating unfamiliar socio-cultural and physical environments (Biasi et al., 2018;Van Tilburg et al., 1996). Whilst culture shock means that the experience of moving or living in a foreign culture is an obnoxious surprise, in part because it is unanticipated and in part, because it may cause an unfavourable perception of one's own culture and/or the other's (Cleveland et al., 1960;Furnham, 2005), homesickness seems to be an intense obsession with feelings of home, a perceived desire to go home, a feeling of grief for the home (People, things and places) and a contemporaneous sense of unhappiness, sickness and bewilderment in the new location which is, conspicuously, not feeling home (Furnham, 2005). ...
... Cognitive symptoms comprise thoughts fixated on the homeland and sometimes simultaneously unwanted thoughts regarding the host environments, idealising home, and being distracted (Fisher, 2016;Vingerhoets, 2005). For Van Tilburg et al. (1996), development of apathy and listlessness, deficient initiative-taking and lack of interest in the host context are parts of these characteristic behaviours. Fisher (2016) and Lin (1986) observed multifaceted associations between sociocultural navigation and adjustment from a psychological standpoint. ...
... Owing to its periodicity, the prevalence of homesickness can be hard to assess as a 'disease', even by researchers who adopt the psycho-medical approach. Sufferers experience the condition particularly early into the expatriate assignment (Van Tilburg et al., 1996). Migration between nations, with significant cultural changes, is necessarily subject to relatively serious psychological risks for children (Aronowitz, 1984). ...
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This article examines the developing world expatriates' experience of homesickness when they are deployed to western countries. The research considers the consequences of being homesick on the expatriates and their organisations; the paper then clarifies the strategies used by the expatriates to cope with the condition. The research employed qualitative research built on unstructured interviews with expatriates from the developing world who have been deployed in western countries by their employing multinational. The findings revealed that homesickness has consequences for both expatriates and organisations. These consequences include psycho-social disorder, deterioration of physical health which damagingly affect individual wellbeing, work outcomes and organisational commitment. The practical implications centre on the opportunity for policy and strategy formulation by international HRM within organisations to improve the mental health of developing world expatriates, thus seeding the ingredients for better performance and job satisfaction. Our study makes significant additions to the expatriate literature in exposing the homesickness experiences of expatriates from the developing world in advanced economies. We identify two main coping strategies used by expatriates. The research explicates how developing world expatriates use these strategies in practices. Keywords: Expatriates; Homesickness; Adjustment; Developing world; Human resource management; Performance; Culture.
... Various studies have shown that the adaptation process to a new place can create strong feelings of stress [9] [10], and the migration process can affect both physical and mental health, e.g. causing diabetes mellitus and immune system breakdowns [11]. Native Americans who migrate within America show psychoneurotic and neurotic symptoms, as noted by Kleiner and Parker [12] Although several studies have shown the effect of acculturative stress on mental and physical disorders experienced by migrants [11] [12], the number of studies on the effect of acculturative stress on health in general are very few. ...
... causing diabetes mellitus and immune system breakdowns [11]. Native Americans who migrate within America show psychoneurotic and neurotic symptoms, as noted by Kleiner and Parker [12] Although several studies have shown the effect of acculturative stress on mental and physical disorders experienced by migrants [11] [12], the number of studies on the effect of acculturative stress on health in general are very few. There are more studies that talk about the effect of acculturative stress on mental health, in general aspects of life [13] [14] and healthquality aspect, as well as several other mental health related issues. ...
... Homesickness denotes a state of psychological distress experienced as a result of leaving home and living in an unfamiliar environment (Van Tilburg et al., 1996), and is related to both social and environmental qualities of the person's home (Morse and Mudgett, 2017). Homesickness is defined as "sadness caused by the longing for one's home or family during a period of absence" (Morse and Mudgett, 2017, p. 97). ...
... These results support Palai and Kumar's (2016) finding of a positive association between psychological distress and homesickness. However, homesickness is considered as a state of distress experienced as a result of leaving home and living in an unfamiliar environment (Van Tilburg et al., 1996). Although some theories postulate that homesickness causes psychological problems (Fisher, 1989), it is not clear which one proceeds the other. ...
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Migration is a global phenomenon growing in scope, and it can be associated with negative emotions such as sense of impending loss, fear of the unknown, and anxiety about those left at home. The objective of this exploratory study was to examine psychological distress and homesickness among Sudanese migrants in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Participants were 1444 Sudanese migrants ( M age = 40.20; SD = 10.98). The Second Version of the Dundee Relocation Inventory was used to assess homesickness, and the 28-item General Health Questionnaire was used to measure psychological distress, depressive and anxiety symptoms, somatic symptoms, and social dysfunction. The results showed that older age and longer duration of residence in the UAE were associated with lower levels of homesickness, psychological distress, and depressive and anxiety symptoms. Further, homesickness was associated with higher psychological distress, somatic symptoms, and depressive and anxiety symptoms. Women and unemployed migrants had higher psychological distress, somatic symptoms, and depressive and anxiety symptoms compared with men and those employed, respectively. Being unmarried was associated with higher levels of depressive symptoms and homesickness, while those married or divorced/widowed showed lower levels of depressive symptoms and homesickness. It was concluded that there is a need to tackle unemployment among migrants in the UAE and address family reunion issues.
... This experience relates to the challenges and pressures involved during the acculturation process and in adapting to a new culture [10]. Some research shows how the process of adapting to a new place is a strong form of stress [12] and affects both physical and mental health [13,14]. ...
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Continuing to study abroad brings challenges, apart from academic demands. International students are prone to acculturation stress as a consequence of cultural differences. Many research reports show that social support is a great buffer against experienced stress, but there has thus far been no study that analyzes the real effect of social support on acculturation stress. This meta-analysis study aims to investigate the true effect of social support on acculturation stress of international students based on studies reporting it. A meta-analysis was performed following PRISMA. The electronic databases used were Science-Direct, ERIC, ProQuest, Google Scholar (only for ETD), and opengrey.edu, with the article year limitations being 2009–2019. Eight (8) studies were involved in the meta-analysis. There were three instruments of acculturation stress and five instruments of social support that were used in the different studies. The effect size analysis showed that there was no difference in the effects of eight studies (z = −0.553; SE = 0.497; 95% CI = −1.248–−0.699; p = 0.580). Furthermore, there was no statistically significant moderator variable, the instruments used were quite diverse. The role of a moderator, other than gender, was not used because of limited information from the studies used. Social support plays a major role in reducing acculturation stress in international students. However, studies involving moderator and confounding roles need to be conducted.
... Two millennia after the Judeans' displacement, pathological homesickness became associated with soldiers missing their homes. Most postmedieval historians locate the appearance of nostalgia as an illness in the observations of Hofer in his 1688 medical school dissertation (Anspach, 1934;Rosen, 1975;Van Tilburg et al., 1996). Rosen (1975) noted that, although Hofer is credited with identifying the medical condition, it had been described in Europe earlier in the 17th century. ...
Article
Nostalgia and homesickness are not currently regarded as mental disorders. The psychic pain associated with longing to return home had been considered a mental disorder for centuries, especially in Europe, where it was a sign of moral weakness between nations. Nostalgia's effects on American Civil War soldiers-anxiety, depression, and sleep and appetite disturbances, for example-were described by clinicians and linked to significant morbidity and mortality. Since then, although these effects of combat have been of interest, focus has shifted to psychic trauma, relegating the concept of nostalgia to an unclassified but commonly encountered condition. Besides wartime trauma, symptomatic conditions related to nostalgia have been described among displaced persons and refugees living in the diaspora longing for their homelands (e.g., social displacement syndrome). More recently, nostalgia has pervaded culture as a benign pastime, with no implications for psychopathology. Finally, the longing for return to an idyllic or imagined lifestyle has returned amid worldwide quarantining and isolation during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this new sense, nostalgia has become a remedy rather than a disease. We identify four major iterations of nostalgia: the medical condition of homesickness, the condition studied in wartime, the application to migration and social displacement, and as a remedy for existential anxiety. We conclude that nostalgia per se is neither pathological nor normative, but a consistent phenomenon in human existence that should not be overlooked in cultural assessment and psychotherapy.
Article
With the implement of China's ex-situ poverty alleviation resettlement (ESPAR) policy, nearly 10 million rural population have relocated with a better living condition in a short period of time, most of which have migrated to urban areas. The living environment and lifestyle of the poverty alleviation migrants (PAMs) have undergone dramatic changes, the resulting mental health problems may seriously affect their social integration and well-being. In particular, homesickness is a prevalent mental problem among the PAMs that demand prompt attention. Research indicates that longing for natural environment is one of the major causes of homesickness among rural out-migrants. As the main natural environment in cities, urban green space has been proven by numerous studies to have a positive effect on residents' mental health in various aspects, including reducing anxiety, relieving fatigue, and fostering perseverance. However, few studies have focused on the influence of urban green space on the mental health of the PAMs, especially on alleviating their homesickness syndrome. Using the data collected from interviews and questionnaire survey in the PAMs’ resettlement sites in Anshun, Guizhou, which has undertaken a heavy poverty alleviation task, this study examined the relationship between the physical activity, environment, function of urban green space, and the severity of PAMs’ homesickness, meanwhile paying attention to the impacts caused by different socio-demographic characteristics. The results show that urban green space is strongly associated with alleviating PAMs’ homesickness, and that all three factors play a positive role. Neighborhood green space is used the most, but suburban green space seems to provide better alleviation of homesickness. This study sheds lights on the critical role of urban green space for promoting PAMs' mental health, and aims to provide scientific reference to the planning and improvement for future migrant resettlements and urban green space.
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Ethics in the Digital Health Era
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Purpose Most of the studies in the field of homesickness are confined to students; this study aims to explore the feeling of homesickness among working professionals. Also, it tends to examine individual differences in the experience of homesickness across employees of different gender, ages, experience, family type, etc. The study also aspires to compare homesickness among military and civil employees. Design/methodology/approach The study explores five dimensions of homesickness, namely, missing family, missing friend, rumination about home, feeling lonely and adjustment problems. The collected data is subjected to reliability, validity and confirmatory factor analysis. Further, t -test and analysis of variance are used to explore homesickness differences across soldiers and corporate employees. Findings The study reveals that homesickness is significantly higher for employees in the male, unmarried, nuclear family, above the age of 45 years, and below the graduation category. Also, defense people experience more homesickness than civilian employees. Originality/value This study is one of the pioneer studies that compare homesickness among defense and civilian employees. Also, variables such as type of family, the experience of employees and marital status have hardly been explored in the literature of homesickness.
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This paper examines the psychological reactions towards university transition with cultural relocation. Both personal factors (cognitive failures, locus of control) and environmental factors (perceived academic and social demands) are considered in this specific stressful context. General psychological symptoms and homesickness were measured. Result from a prospective study showed that homesickness is a common psychological reaction amongst Chinese students studying in Britain. This was quite separate from other psychological symptoms, and the two were influenced by different personality and environmental factors.
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Schon lange haben die mit unglaublicher Grausamkeit und rücksichtsloser Brutalität ausgeführten Verbrechen (Mord und Brandstiftung) Interesse erregt, die man von zarten Geschöpfen, jungen und gutmütigen, noch ganz im Kindesalter befindlichen Mädchen ausgeführt sah. Der Widerspruch zwischen Tat und Täterin, die Motivlosigkeit oder unzureichende Motivierung und darum das Rätselhafte und Unverständliche der Ereignisse erregten Mitgefühl oder Abscheu.
Article
Three studies are reported concerning homesickness in children attending a new boarding school. Homesickness was found to be a complex cognitive/motivational/ emotional state. The first study concerned retrospective reports of 115 pupils at the end of the first year. Seventy-one per cent of the group reported having experienced homesickness during the school year. This same group also reported a higher incidence of non-traumatic ailments during the year and more days off school. Previous boarding school experience was found to have an ameliorating effect on reports of homesickness. Two further studies are described which involve a diary style of methodology. The first confirmed incidence levels of 76% and an ameliorating effect of previous boarding school experience was found. The second study devoted exclusively to homesickness reporting showed incidence levels of 71 %. Homesickness reporting generally decreased during the two-week period of the diary studies; males showed a different daily reporting patterns from females; ‘very homesick’ respondents had different daily and weekly reporting pattern from other respondents. The findings are elaborated in terms of the risk model developed by Fisher et al. (1985, J. Environ. Psychol., 5, 181–195): a geographical move is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for a homesickness experience; circumstantial and life situations act as ‘gate devices’ influencing which variables have a moderating effect.
Article
The investigation concerns the impact of the new school environment on a group of 50 male and female children aged 11–16 years, who leave home to reside temporarily at boarding school, in terms of the characteristics of problems and worries reported and the incidence of spontaneous reports of homesickness. More problems relating to the school than to the home environment were reported but proportionally more worry units were reported associated with home problems for both males and females. There was no sex differences in this respect. The reported level of spontaneously reported homesickness was 16% and there were no sex differences. Factors such as age, geographical distance of move and decision to go away to school were not influential in determining the level of reported problems or incidence of spontaneous reports of homesickness. A relationship was found with level of problems reported and recent life history but the result proved difficult to interpret.
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This paper explicates the different factors which determine the adaptation of immi grants. Immigration is conceptualised as a stressful process which necessitates readjust ment on several dimensions of functioning. The varying adjustment patterns of immigrants as they cope with cultural changes are outlined. Focusing on Indian immigrants, four phases of adjustment (pre-immigration, transition, discontentment and adaptation periods) and their behavioural correlates are described. The conflicts and concerns of the post-1965 immigrants are articulated in terms of issues pertaining to dependency vs. independence, competition vs. collusion, loneliness and changing values and family commitments. The problems of women immigrants are also discussed.
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Berry's model of acculturation can be considered as very useful to classify different strategies to cope with or to adjust to a new culture. In the model four relevant modes of acculturation are described: integration, assimilation, segregation and marginalisation. Research illustrates that these modes are differently related to health and psychosocial adjustment. Irrespective of the mode mostly preferred by a social group, we find marked inter-individual differences in the preference of an acculturation style Research findings show that these individual differences are very closely related to a series of personality variables, such as cognitive styles, coping styles, and reactions to stressful life events in general. Understanding the complex relationships between personality and acculturation modes can help the social scientist to develop and apply adequate intervention strategies and to give some suggestions for the development of adequate socio-political acculturation programmes.
Article
This study explored the following questions: (a) Are there cultural differences in the degree of reported homesickness? (b) What variables differentiate the homesick from the nonhomesick? (c) Do these differentiating dimensions vary across cultures? The participants were 75 American and 69 Turkish 1st-year female college students. They completed two personality inventories and a 60-item Homesickness Questionnaire. There was a significant difference in the number of homesick students in the two culture groups. Further, the mean homesickness rating of the American sample was significantly less than the mean homesickness rating of the Turkish participants. Some aspects of the experience of homesickness transcended cultural boundaries (e.g., lower social presence, greater dependence on parental guidance, problems with personal well-being) and others were found to be culture specific (e.g., higher socialization and lower flexibility scores for the Turkish homesick group).
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A questionnaire was mailed to 2,521 Iranian and 2,938 Filipino physicians who were practicing medicine in the U.S. Six hundred ninety-five Iranians and 898 Filipinos responded. Data of a section of the questionnaire on perceived adjustment and psychosocial problems were analyzed in this study. Statistical analyses of the data (bivariate correlations, multiple regression, and factor analysis) indicated that the reported adjustment problem was related closely to psychopathological measures such as loneliness, anxiety, depression, homesickness, and low self-esteem in both nationality groups. Participation in social activities with Americans was inversely related to perceived adjustment problems. In both groups, those who had become naturalized US. citizens and those who planned to stay permanently in the US. were less likely to report adjustment problems. The relationships between perceived adjustment problems and age and total years in the US. were not significant for Iranian physicians; however, they were correlated significantly for the Filipinos, which indicates that older physicians in this group and those who had been in the US. for a longer period of time were less likely to report adjustment problems. Other differences and similarities between the two nationality groups also were identified.