High Manifestations of Mental Distress in Arabic Asylum Seekers Accommodated in Collective Centers for Refugees in Germany

Author(s): Ekaterini GEORGIADOU ; Eva MORAWA ; Yesim ERIM



The number of asylum seekers in Germany has significantly increased in the last two years. Coming from regions of political conflict and war, the refugees have often experienced traumatic events which designate them as a high risk group for mental disorders. In a sample of Arabic speaking asylum seekers in collective accommodation centers in Erlangen, Germany, we estimated the extent of posttraumatic stress, depression, and anxiety. A further objective of the study was to test the comprehensibility and cultural appropriateness of the Arabic translations of the questionnaires in this sample. Between August and September 2016, 56 Arabic speaking asylum seekers placed among three collective accommodation centers in Erlangen completed self-report questionnaires assessing posttraumatic stress disorder (Essen Trauma-Inventory, ETI), and symptoms of depression (Patient Health Questionnaire—depression module, PHQ-9) and anxiety (Generalized Anxiety Disorder, GAD-7). The prevalence of participants with personally and/or witnessed traumatic events was 80.4% (n = 45). About one-third of the examinees (35.7%, n = 20) endorsed symptoms of PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder). The total score for depression in this sample was M = 11.9 (SD = 7.9, range: 0–27). Moderate to severe depression (PHQ-9 score ≥ 15) was found in 35.7% (n = 20) of our sample and severe depression (PHQ-9 score ≥ 20) was found in 23.2% (n = 13). The total score for anxiety was M = 8.8 (SD = 6.9, range: 0–21), with 26.8% (n = 15) of the sample showing symptoms of severe anxiety (GAD-7 score ≥ 15). No significant difference between women and men with respect to frequency and symptom scores of PTSD, depression, and anxiety was found. Amongst asylum seekers of the presented sample, the rates of traumatic events as well as the prevalence of possible PTSD, depression, and anxiety were significantly higher than in the German population. This indicates that the refugee population is in need of culturally sensitive psychological interventions. However, more studies are required to improve the understanding of mental health among this particularly vulnerable population.


posttraumatic stress disorder; depression; anxiety; asylum seekers; collective accommodation centers; refugees

Tags: Germany, Refugees, Asylum seekers, PTSD, Depression, Anxiety, Traumatic life events, War, Conflict, Collective accommodation centers

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