Mental Disorders in Asylum Seekers: The Role of the Refugee Determination Process and Employment

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Abstract

The refugee determination process (RDP) and social factors putatively impact on the psychiatric morbidity of adult asylum seekers (ASs) living in the community. Clinical and sociodemographic data relevant to AS experience in the RDP were collected using self-report measures to assess posttraumatic stress (Harvard Trauma Questionnaire–Revised) and depressive and anxiety symptoms (25-item Hopkins Symptom Checklist), and the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview 6.0 psychiatric interview was used to establish a cutoff for caseness. The prevalence of major depressive disorder (MDD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was 61% and 52%, respectively. Unemployment and greater numbers of both potentially traumatic events and RDP rejections were predictors of symptom severity. Unemployed ASs were more than twice as likely to have MDD (odds ratio, 2.61; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.11– 6.13; p = 0.03), and ASs with at least one RDP rejection were 1.35 times more likely to develop PTSD for each additional rejection (95% CI, 1.00–1.84; p = 0.05). Reducing the asylum claim rejection rate and granting work rights are likely to reduce the rate of PTSD and MDD in community-based ASs.

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