Prevalence rates of mental disorders are frequently increased in long-settled war refugees. However, substantial variation in prevalence rates across studies and countries remain unexplained.
To test whether the same sociodemographic characteristics, war experiences and post-migration stressors are associated with mental disorders in similar refugee groups resettled in different countries.
Mental disorders were assessed in war-affected refugees from the former Yugoslavia in Germany, Italy and the UK. Sociodemographic, war-related and post-migration characteristics were tested for their association with different disorders.
A total of 854 war refugees were assessed (⩾255 per country). Prevalence rates of mental disorders varied substantially across countries. A lower level of education, more traumatic experiences during and after the war, more migration-related stress, a temporary residence permit and not feeling accepted were independently associated with higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders. Mood disorders were also associated with older age, female gender and being unemployed, and anxiety disorders with the absence of combat experience. Higher rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were associated with older age, a lower level of education, more traumatic experiences during and after the war, absence of combat experience, more migration-related stress, and a temporary residence permit. Only younger age, male gender and not living with a partner were associated with substance use disorders. The associations did not differ significantly across the countries. War-related factors explained more variance in rates of PTSD, and post-migration factors in the rates of mood, anxiety and substance use disorder.
Sociodemographic characteristics, war experiences and post-migration stressors are independently associated with mental disorders in long-settled war refugees. The risk factors vary for different disorders, but are consistent across host countries for the same disorders.
Key words: Mental health, post-migration factors, long-term