Refugees Are At Terrifyingly High Risk Of Developing Psychotic Disorders, Study Says

As if fleeing one’s war-ravaged home and searching for a new one wasn’t traumatic enough, new research suggests that refugees are at an elevated risk of developing schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders.

In Sweden, where the research took place, refugees are 66 percent more likely to experience schizophrenia and certain other disorders than non-refugee migrants from the same region, and 3.6 times more likely than Swedish-born people, according to a study published Tuesday in the medical journal BMJ Open. Non-refugee migrants were almost twice as likely to experience schizophrenia and other disorders as Swedish-born people.

“Schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders lead to lifelong health and social adversities, culminating in a reduction in life expectancy of 10-25 years,” the study notes.

Researchers from University College London and the Department of Public Health Sciences at Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet looked at population registration data for more than 1.3 million people in Sweden born after 1984. They divided the research into three categories of people — refugees; non-refugees who migrated to Sweden; and people born to two Swedish parents.

The risk of schizophrenia and other non-affective psychotic disorders was greatest for people from sub-Saharan Africa and second-greatest for people from the Middle East. The trend was more pronounced among men than women.

Though the data on children is limited, said James Kirkbride, a co-author of the study, people who migrate earlier in life may be more likely to experience psychosis. He also suspected that difficulties in the resettlement process could exacerbate these effects, though further study is needed to confirm this.

The study has major implications for how mental health practitioners should prepare to help the growing numbers of refugees in their countries, Kirkbride said. They “should be aware of this additional psychiatric vulnerability on top of the range —> Read More

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