Onset of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Major Depression Among Refugees and Voluntary Migrants to the United States

Authors


  • This work was supported in part by a K23 Career Development Award (K23HD059075) from the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child & Human Development (NICHD). None of the authors report conflicts of interest.

Correspondence concerning this article should be addressed to Andrew Rasmussen, Department of Psychology, Fordham University, Dealy Hall 226, 441 East Fordham Road, Bronx, NY 10458. E-mail: arasmussen@fordham.edu

Abstract

Although refugees are generally thought to be at increased risk for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive episode (MDE), few studies have compared onset of PTSD and MDE between refugees and voluntary migrants. Given differences in migration histories, onset should differ pre- and postmigration. The National Latino and Asian American Survey (NLAAS) is a national representative, complex dataset measuring psychiatric morbidity, mental health service use, and migration history among Latino and Asian immigrants to the United States. Of the 3,260 foreign-born participants, 660 were refugees (a weighted proportion of 9.52%). Refugees were more likely to report a history of war-related trauma, but reports of other traumatic events were similar. Premigration onset of PTSD was statistically higher for refugees than voluntary migrants, odds ratio (OR) = 4.86, 95% confidence interval (CI) [2.01, 11.76], where postmigration onset for PTSD was not, OR = 0.61, 95% CI [0.29, 1.28]; a similar pattern was found for MDE, OR = 1.98, 95% CI [1.11, 3.51]; and OR = 1.02, 95% CI [0.65, 1.62], respectively. Although refugees arrive in host countries with more pressing psychiatric needs, onset is comparable over time, suggesting that postmigration refugees and voluntary migrants may be best served by similar programs.

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