Demand for psychiatric emergency services and immigration. Findings in a Spanish hospital during the year 2003

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The aim of this study is to investigate differences among immigrants and natives regarding access and pathways to psychiatric care, psychiatric admission rates, length of stay, continuity of care, and main diagnoses.


Psychiatric emergency visits (1511) and hospitalizations (410) were registered in a Spanish Hospital with a catchment area of 280 000 people (19.3% immigrants) during the year 2003. Motives for demanding emergency psychiatric care, pathways to care, admission rates, length of stay, continuity of care, and main diagnoses were compared among natives and immigrants.


Immigrants accounted for 13.0% of consultations to the psychiatric emergency room (15.9% of patients) and 11.0% of admissions to the psychiatric hospitalization unit (13.5% of patients). The pathways to care were different for immigrants and natives. Immigrants had a lower rate of readmission to the psychiatric emergency room. Motives for consultation and hospitalization were also different among immigrants and natives. Immigrants showed more self-aggressive behaviours and neuroses, and lower rates of affective disorders and psychoses.


Immigrants under-used psychiatric emergency and hospitalization services in comparison with natives. They did not consult because of psychoses or affective disorders, but mainly because of reactive conditions related to the stress of migration.

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