Daily stressors, trauma exposure, and mental health among stateless Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh

Author(s): Andrew RILEY ; Andrea VARNER ; Peter VENTEVOGEL ; M M TAIMUR HASAN ; Courtney WELTON-MITCHELL

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1363461517705571

Abstract

The Rohingya of Myanmar are a severely persecuted minority who form one of the largest groups of stateless people; thousands of them reside in refugee camps in southeastern Bangladesh. There has been little research into the mental health consequences of persecution, war, and other historical trauma endured by the Rohingya; nor has the role of daily environmental stressors associated with continued displacement, statelessness, and life in the refugee camps, been thoroughly researched. This cross-sectional study examined: trauma history, daily environmental stressors, and mental health outcomes for 148 Rohingya adults residing in Kutupalong and Nayapara refugee camps in Bangladesh. Results indicated high levels of mental health concerns: posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, somatic complaints, and associated functional impairment. Participants also endorsed local idioms of distress, including somatic complaints and concerns associated with spirit possession. The study also found very high levels of daily environmental stressors associated with life in the camps, including problems with food, lack of freedom of movement, and concerns regarding safety. Regression and associated mediation analyses indicated that, while there was a direct effect of trauma exposure on mental health outcomes (PTSD symptoms), daily environmental stressors partially mediated this relationship. Depression symptoms were associated with daily stressors, but not prior trauma exposure. These findings indicate that daily stressors play a pivotal role in mental health outcomes of populations affected by collective violence and statelessness. It is, therefore, important to consider the role and effects of environmental stressors associated with life in refugee camps on the mental health and psychosocial well-being of stateless populations such as the Rohingya, living in protracted humanitarian environments.

Tags: Bangladesh, Rohingya, Refugees, Statelessness, Traumatic life events, Displacement, Violence, PTSD, Depression, Psychosomatic complaints, Disability, Stressors, Food and water security, Well-being

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