Mental health, wellbeing and sense of hope among vulnerable Afghans plummeted in wake of Taliban takeover

Women’s hope for their children and satisfaction with life badly affected.

Press release, 28 November 2022

The physical, emotional and economic wellbeing of some of the most vulnerable people in Afghanistan plummeted in the wake of the takeover of the government by the Taliban in August 2021, according to new research being published by IIED and research organisation Samuel Hall.

In August 2022, one year after the Taliban came to power, researchers asked people at two sites about their lives, including not just information about the quality and amount of food they had to eat and their access to healthcare and education, but also their social lives and feelings of hope for the future. Some were Afghans who had returned from Pakistan and Iran, while others were people who had fled their homes within Afghanistan and a third group were non-displaced people living in communities that were hosting people who had been displaced.

The survey found their wellbeing had decreased overall by ten points, on a scale of one to 100. Those with the biggest decrease in wellbeing were people in communities hosting those who had fled. The hosts’ wellbeing was down 13 points on March 2021 levels. 

Across all groups of people, their hope that their children would have a better future had plummeted, especially for women – down from 91% in 2020 to 55% in August 2022. There was a four-fold increase in the percentage of people who felt they had no one to turn to if they needed help, up to 12% of men and 16% of women. 

Women’s feeling of satisfaction with their lives dropped by 25 percentage points, while men’s dropped 14. Among households headed by women, satisfaction with access to primary education dropped by 15 percentage points, and by 19 percentage points for secondary education. 

Lucy Earle, acting director of research on human settlements at IIED, said: “It’s easy to think that if people who have been forced to flee their homes have access to food, water and shelter, then their problems have been addressed. But our research paints a much more detailed picture of the challenges they face and the way they feel.”

Nassim Majidi, from Samuel Hall, said: “This research also demonstrates the toll taken not just by those facing upheaval but also by the people hosting them, and how attention needs to be paid to their physical and mental health, ability to find work and take part in social life.”

Researchers contacted almost 900 people in March 2021, 362 of whom had been displaced and were living in camps, 371 of whom had fled to cities, and 156 of whom were hosting displaced people, and asked them a range of questions about different aspects of their lives. 

The surveys were carried out in Jalalabad, in eastern Afghanistan, and Barikab, a camp-like settlement near Kabul. 

Researchers were able to trace over 500 of the same people again in August 2022, one year after the Taliban came to power, and found that wellbeing had decreased across each of the three groups.

Notes to editors

This research was funded by UKRI’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

This research will form the basis of a series of papers to be published by the Protracted Displacement in a Urban World consortium. For a copy of the preliminary findings, please contact Sarah Grainger.

For more information or to request an interview, contact Sarah Grainger: +44 7503 643332 or