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      Anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder in refugees resettling in high-income countries: systematic review and meta-analysis

      , , , , , ,
      BJPsych Open
      Cambridge University Press
      Refugees, mental health, depression, anxiety, PTSD

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          The number of refugees is at its highest since the Second World War and on the rise. Many refugees suffer from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), but exact and up-to-date prevalence estimates are not available.


          To report the pooled prevalence of anxiety and mood disorders and PTSD in general refugee populations residing in high-income countries and to detect sources of heterogeneity therein.


          Systematic review with meta-analyses and meta-regression.


          Systematic searches (final search date 3 August 2019) yielded 66 eligible publications that reported 150 prevalence estimates (total sample N = 14 882). Prevalence rates were 13 and 42% (95% CI 8–52%) for diagnosed and self-reported anxiety, 30 and 40% (95% CI 23–48%) for diagnosed and self-reported depression, and 29 and 37% (95% CI 22–45%) for diagnosed and self-reported PTSD. These estimates are substantially higher relative to those reported in non-refugee populations over the globe and to populations living in conflict or war settings, both for child/adolescent and adult refugees. Estimates were similar over different home and resettlement areas and independent of length of residence.


          Our data indicate a challenging and persisting disease burden in refugees due to anxiety, mood disorders and PTSD. Knowing this is relevant for the development of public health policies of host countries. Scalable interventions, tailored for refugees, should become more readily available.

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          Most cited references77

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          Explaining heterogeneity in meta-analysis: a comparison of methods.

          Exploring the possible reasons for heterogeneity between studies is an important aspect of conducting a meta-analysis. This paper compares a number of methods which can be used to investigate whether a particular covariate, with a value defined for each study in the meta-analysis, explains any heterogeneity. The main example is from a meta-analysis of randomized trials of serum cholesterol reduction, in which the log-odds ratio for coronary events is related to the average extent of cholesterol reduction achieved in each trial. Different forms of weighted normal errors regression and random effects logistic regression are compared. These analyses quantify the extent to which heterogeneity is explained, as well as the effect of cholesterol reduction on the risk of coronary events. In a second example, the relationship between treatment effect estimates and their precision is examined, in order to assess the evidence for publication bias. We conclude that methods which allow for an additive component of residual heterogeneity should be used. In weighted regression, a restricted maximum likelihood estimator is appropriate, although a number of other estimators are also available. Methods which use the original form of the data explicitly, for example the binomial model for observed proportions rather than assuming normality of the log-odds ratios, are now computationally feasible. Although such methods are preferable in principle, they often give similar results in practice. Copyright 1999 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
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            Depression and anxiety in labor migrants and refugees--a systematic review and meta-analysis.

            Prevalence rates of depression and anxiety among migrants (i.e. refugees, labor migrants) vary among studies and it's been found that prevalence rates of depression and anxiety may be linked to financial strain in the country of immigration. Our aim is to review studies on prevalence rates of depression and/or anxiety (acknowledging that Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is within that class of disorders), and to evaluate associations between the Gross National Product (GNP) of the immigration country as a moderating factor for depression, anxiety and PTSD among migrants. We carried out a systematic literature review in the databases MEDLINE and EMBASE for population based studies published from 1990 to 2007 reporting prevalence rates of depression and/or anxiety and or PTSD according to DSM- or ICD- criteria in adults, and a calculation of combined estimates for proportions using the DerSimonian-Laird estimation. A total of 348 records were retrieved with 37 publications on 35 populations meeting our inclusion criteria. 35 studies were included in the final evaluation. Our meta-analysis shows that the combined prevalence rates for depression were 20 percent among labor migrants vs. 44 percent among refugees; for anxiety the combined estimates were 21 percent among labor migrants vs. 40 percent among (n=24,051) refugees. Higher GNP in the country of immigration was related to lower symptom prevalence of depression and/or anxiety in labor migrants but not in refugees. We conclude that depression and/or anxiety in labor migrants and refugees require separate consideration, and that better economic conditions in the host country reflected by a higher GNP appear to be related to better mental health in labor migrants but not in refugees.
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              Mental health of Cambodian refugees 2 decades after resettlement in the United States.

              Little is known about the long-term mental health of trauma-exposed refugees years after permanent resettlement in host countries. To assess the prevalence, comorbidity, and correlates of psychiatric disorders in the US Cambodian refugee community. A cross-sectional, face-to-face interview conducted in Khmer language on a random sample of households from the Cambodian community in Long Beach, Calif, the largest such community in the United States, between October 2003 and February 2005. A total of 586 adults aged 35 to 75 years who lived in Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge reign and immigrated to the United States prior to 1993 were selected. One eligible individual was randomly sampled from each household, with an overall response rate (eligibility screening and interview) of 87% (n = 490). Exposure to trauma and violence before and after immigration (using the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire and Survey of Exposure to Community Violence); weighted past-year prevalence rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression (using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview version 2.1); and alcohol use disorder (by the Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test). All participants had been exposed to trauma before immigration. Ninety-nine percent (n = 483) experienced near-death due to starvation and 90% (n = 437) had a family member or friend murdered. Seventy percent (n = 338) reported exposure to violence after settlement in the United States. High rates of PTSD (62%, weighted), major depression (51%, weighted), and low rates of alcohol use disorder were found (4%, weighted). PTSD and major depression were highly comorbid in this population (n = 209; 42%, weighted) and each showed a strong dose-response relationship with measures of traumatic exposure. In bivariate analyses, older age, having poor English-speaking proficiency, unemployment, being retired or disabled, and living in poverty were also associated with higher rates of PTSD and major depression. Following multivariate analyses, premigration trauma remained associated with PTSD (odds ratio [OR], 2.08; 95% CI, 1.37-3.16) and major depression (OR, 1.56; 95% CI, 1.24-1.97); postmigration trauma with PTSD (OR, 1.65; 95% CI, 1.21-2.26) and major depression (OR, 1.45; 95% CI, 1.12-1.86); and older age with PTSD (OR, 1.76; 95% CI, 1.46-2.13) and major depression (OR, 1.47; 95% CI, 1.15-1.89). More than 2 decades have passed since the end of the Cambodian civil war and the subsequent resettlement of refugees in the United States; however, this population continues to have high rates of psychiatric disorders associated with trauma.

                Author and article information

                BJPsych Open
                BJPsych Open
                BJPsych Open
                Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, UK )
                July 2020
                02 July 2020
                : 6
                : 4
                : e68
                [1]Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Clinical Psychology Department, Leiden University , The Netherlands
                [2]Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Clinical Psychology Department, Leiden University
                [3]Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Clinical Psychology Department, Leiden University
                [4]Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Clinical Psychology Department, Leiden University
                [5]Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Clinical Psychology Department, Leiden University ; and Clinical Epidemiological Department, Leiden University Medical Center
                [6]Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Clinical Psychology Department, Leiden University
                [7]Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences, Clinical Psychology Department, Leiden University ; and Leiden Institute of Brain and Cognition, Leiden University Medical Center , The Netherlands
                Author notes
                Correspondence: Marc Molendijk. Email: molendijkml@ 123456fsw.leidenuniv.nl

                Joint first authors.

                Author information
                © The Author(s) 2020

                This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

                : 14 April 2020
                : 02 June 2020
                : 03 June 2020
                Page count
                Figures: 1, Tables: 2, References: 105, Pages: 8

                refugees,mental health,depression,anxiety,ptsd
                refugees, mental health, depression, anxiety, ptsd


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