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Refugees More Likely to Suffer PTSD

Those in Western nations were 10 times more susceptible than general population

THURSDAY, April 7, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Refugees in western nations may be about 10 times more likely to have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than the general populations in those countries, says a study by researchers at the University of Oxford in England.

For their study, the researchers reviewed 20 psychiatric surveys of 6,743 adult refugees living in Canada, the United States, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, the United Kingdom and Australia. The results suggest that about one in 10 of the refugees has PTSD, about one in 20 has major depression, and about one in 25 has generalized anxiety disorder. An estimated 50,000 to 500,000 refugees living in the United States have PTSD, said the study, which appears in the April 9 issue of The Lancet.

PTSD is a potentially disabling condition that can affect people who've witnessed or experienced violence, disasters and other kinds of traumatic events. PTSD symptoms include flashbacks, hypervigilance, and emotional numbing that may increase the risk of substance abuse and suicide.

"Our overall estimates will need to be used judiciously, in view of the fact that it is difficult to know whether the diverse refugee groups contributing to this analysis were representative of the refugee populations resettled in western countries. Nevertheless, our review suggests that at least several tens of thousands of current refugees in western countries have post-traumatic stress disorder," study author Mina Fazel said in a prepared statement.

"This information warrants attention by investigators, funding agencies and service organizations," Michael Hollifield, of the University of Louisville, wrote in an accompanying comment.

"As world conflicts march on, people will probably continue to be traumatized and displaced. Because resources are scarce, it would be wise to ensure that data collected to make inferences, policies and services are sound," Hollifield wrote.

More information

The U.S. National Institute of Mental Health has more about PTSD.

SOURCE: The Lancet, news release, April 7, 2005
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