Trauma exposure, postmigration stressors, and symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress in Tamil asylum-seekers: comparison with refugees and immigrants

Author(s): Derrick SILOVE, Zachary STEEL, P. MCGORRY, P. MOHAN



Compared to research on displaced persons whose refugee status has been endorsed prior to arriving in Western countries, there is little systematic information available about levels of past trauma, postmigration living difficulties and psychiatric symptoms amongst asylum-seekers who claim refugee status only after arrival. Asylum-seekers, authorized refugees and immigrants of Tamil background were recruited by personal contact and mail-out in Sydney, Australia. A total of 62 subjects, constituting approximately 60% of the estimated pool of Tamil asylum-seekers, agreed to participate in the study. They returned statistically significantly higher scores than immigrants (n=104) on measures of past trauma, symptoms of anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress, and on all dimensions of postmigration difficulties. Asylum-seekers did not differ from refugees (n=30) on measures of past trauma or psychiatric symptoms, but they scored higher on selective components of postmigration stress relating to difficulties associated with their insecure residency status. Although limited by sampling and diagnostic constraints, the present study suggests that asylum-seekers may be a high-risk group in relation to ongoing stress in the postmigration period.

Key words: Australia, refugees, postmigration factors, asylum seekers, PTSD

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