Does Duration of Residency in the United States Influence Psychological Symptoms and Postmigration Stressors Among Refugees? Potential Implications of Populism for Refugee Mental Health


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Abstract

After relocation, refugees may experience significant difficulty adjusting to a host culture, and this difficulty may persist even after many years following resettlement. However, the influence of time on postmigration living difficulties (PMLD) and psychological distress has not been extensively investigated. In this investigation, we used regression analyses to examine whether length of residence in the United States would moderate the relationship between psychological symptoms and PMLD in a sample of 52 adult East African refugees. The sample was predominantly male (female n = 13) with a mean age of ∼37 years (SD = 20.91) and mean length of residence in the United States of 9.9 years (SD = 5.85). The moderating effect of years living in the United States on the depression–PMLD relationship was significant, and explained an additional 9% of variance in PMLD. The relationship between depressive symptoms and PMLD became significantly related at ∼7 years of residence in the United States, and became more positive as values in the sample approached the longest duration in the United States (30 years). No such moderating effect was found for the association between posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms and PMLD. These results highlight the risk of marginalization as well as the need for early and sustained psychosocial interventions for refugee populations in the United States.

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