Mental disorders in long-settled war refugees: a study conducted in former Yugoslavian refugees resettled in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom.
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Worldwide there are several million war refugees, many of whom stay in the host countries for years. However, little is known about their long-term mental health. The current thesis examined the prevalence, course, and predictors of mental disorders and subjective quality of life (SQOL) in 854 war refugees from former Yugoslavia who had resettled in Germany, Italy and the United Kingdom 9.3 years previously. 215 interviewees with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) at baseline were reinterviewed one-year later. The participants were additionally assessed for use of social and health care interventions during the one-year follow-up period. Prevalence rates of mental disorders in the war refugees varied substantially across countries, with between 42.1% and 67.8% of refugees having a mental disorder. Warrelated factors explained most variance in rates of PTSD whereas post-migration factors explained most variance in mood, anxiety and substance use disorder rates. Risk factors for each disorder were consistent across host countries. At the end of the one-year follow-up period, a third of the sample no longer met the criteria for PTSD. Recovery was positively associated with employment and negatively associated with severity of war exposure, baseline PTSD symptom severity and use of mental health services. Despite the high rates of mental disorders, refugees felt reasonably satisfied with SQOL. Low SQOL was associated with poor post-migration living conditions and mental illness, but not with war trauma.In conclusion, mental disorders appeared to be highly prevalent in war refugees many years after resettlement. This increased risk may result from exposure not only to wartime trauma but also to post-migration socio-economic adversity. Policies promoting community integration and employment may be more effective than existing psychiatric and psychological interventions in improving mental health and quality of life in war refugees.
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