Conference paper
High levels of psychological distress among asylum seekers and refugees in Sweden

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Publication Details
Author list: Leiler, Anna
Publication year: 2018


In 2015 there was an unforeseen increase of refugees worldwide. In order to face the high rates of psychological distress refugees suffer, the AMIR-project created a model for early assessment and intervention of mental health among refugees. Previous research might not be applicable to the groups seeking asylum in Europe from 2015, so as a first step, a study aiming to estimate the prevalence of mental health problems was conducted.

Methods. Five hundred and ten refugees participated at open screenings conducted at refugee housing facilities. Of the participants, 367 were asylum seekers and 143 had received a residence permit. Instruments included measures of depressive symptoms, anxiety, risk of having PTSD and quality of life.

Preliminary results. A high percentage of individuals (56-58.4%) reported clinically significant levels of depression, anxiety and risk of having PTSD. Prevalence estimates were significantly higher among asylum seekers than among those who had received their residence permit. Quality of life was generally rated below population norms and correlated significantly with mental health outcomes.

Conclusions. Individuals residing in refugee housing facilities show high levels of psychological distress. Asylum seekers are worse off than those having received a residence permit. Actions should be taken to improve conditions in housing facilities, to shorten the time awaiting the asylum decision and to provide psychosocial support to help individuals manage their distress during the time of waiting.

Key words: Refugee – asylum seeker – mental health – quality of life - prevalence

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