COMPARATIVE STUDY
JOURNAL ARTICLE

Traumatic experiences and psychological distress in an urban refugee population seeking treatment services

Allen Keller, Dechen Lhewa, Barry Rosenfeld, Emily Sachs, Asher Aladjem, Ilene Cohen, Hawthorne Smith, Katherine Porterfield
Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 2006, 194 (3): 188-94
16534436
While a growing literature has addressed the psychological consequences of torture and refugee trauma, most studies have focused on homogeneous samples drawn from a single region. Thus, relatively little research has attempted to identify demographic or experiential factors that might help explain different levels of distress in these individuals. We measured depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in a convenience sample of refugees and survivors of torture seeking treatment in a torture treatment program (N = 325). We found 81.1% of patients had clinically significant anxiety, 84.5% had clinically significant depressive symptoms, and 45.7% had significant PTSD symptoms. Regression analyses revealed that anxiety and depressive symptom were significant higher among women (beta = .08, p = 0.02 and beta = .22, p = 0.0001 for anxiety and depression respectively) and those who reported death threats as part of their traumatic experiences (beta = .10, p = 0.033 and beta = .12, p = 0.036 respectively). Symptoms of PTSD were also predicted by death threats (beta = .22, p = 0.03), but were also influenced by the experience of rape (beta = .33, p < 0.001), family torture experiences (beta = .23, p = 0.022), religion (beta = .21, p = 0.03), and age (beta = -.18, p = 0.004). The clinical implications of these results are discussed.

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