With the bulk of previous research studies on refugees concentrating on the immediate health impacts of immigrant resettlement, a recent study published in the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health looked at the long-term implications.
In the new study, conducted by researchers at the University of Toronto, older refugees between the ages of 45 and 85 were checked for the presence of depressive symptoms as part of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging.
During the study, factors such as age, gender, marital status, socioeconomic level, educational attainment, and physical and behavioral health were considered that might influence the severity of depression among refugees.
According to the findings, as compared to Canadian-born people, refugees were much more likely to display depression symptoms decades after immigration. Even when age, gender, and marital status were taken into account, the dramatically high-risk quantity, estimated at 70%, was still visible.
“The prevalence of depression was higher in a sample of 272 refugees (22.1%) and 5,059 non-refugee immigrants (16.6%), compared to 24,339 native-born Canadians (15.2%),” the study reads.
“Our results suggest that post-migration challenges are less important than pre-migration traumas when it comes to depression,” said Esme Fuller-Thomson, co-author of the study.
Shen Lin, another co-author, explained in a news release, “Our findings indicate that the refugee experience casts a long shadow across an individual’s lifespan.” Lin continued by saying, “While our data did not capture reasons for the high levels of depression among refugees, we believe it may be influenced by exposure to pre-migration traumas such as genocide, forced displacement, human trafficking, sexual assault, famine, and separation from family.”
Researchers concluded that social support was vital in determining the impact of depression, in which a lack of social support was correlated with increased depression among refugees.
“Our study indicates that the quality of relationships, rather than the quantity of social connections, matters most for refugees’ mental health,” said Karen Kobayashi, another co-author. “This highlights the importance of investigating ways to promote powerful positive social relations among refugees and asylum seekers in their families, neighbourhoods, and communities.”