Migration and displacement

How are migration and displacement related to PTSD?

Exposure to at least one trauma is required for a diagnosis of PTSD. The latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) determines direct traumas as threatened death, actual or threatened serious injury, or actual or threatened sexual violence. Indirect traumas include witnessing the trauma, or learning that a relative or close friend was exposed to a trauma. Differences in trauma characteristics, including the severity and type of exposure, can affect the risk of developing PTSD. Personal characteristics such as age and sex also influence risk.

What is the evidence for migration and displacement and risk for PTSD?

Moderate to high quality evidence found a medium-sized increase in PTSD symptoms in asylum seekers in detention compared to asylum seekers not in detention. There were small associations between more PTSD symptoms and more interpersonal and material daily stress in conflict-affected migrants. There was a medium-sized association between prolonged grief disorder and more PTSD symptoms in adult refugees.

Moderate quality evidence found the prevalence of PTSD in child and adolescent asylum seekers and refugees was around 23%. Prevalence was highest in those displaced for less than two years, in asylum seekers rather than refugees, and in those resettled into refugee centres than into the community.

August 2021

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Last updated at: 11:39 pm, 11th October 2021
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