Trauma, PTSD and the longer-term mental health burden amongst Vietnamese refugees

A comparison with the Australian-born population
  • Derrick SiloveEmail author
  • Zachary Steel
  • Adrian Bauman
  • Tien Chey
  • Alexander McFarlane



Uncertainty persists about the impact of trauma on the long-term mental health of resettled refugees. The present study aimed to assess the contributions of trauma and PTSD to overall mental disorder and related need for services amongst Vietnamese refugees resettled for over a decade in Australia. The data were compared with a survey of the host population.


The study involved a probabilistic sample of Vietnamese refugees (n = 1,161) resettled in Australia for 11 years. The Australian-born sample (n = 7,961) was drawn from a national survey using the same diagnostic measure, the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI).


The PTSD prevalence for both groups was 3.5% and the diagnosis was present in 50% of Vietnamese and 19% of Australians with any mental disorder(s). Trauma made the largest contribution to mental disorder in the Vietnamese (odds ratio >8), whereas amongst Australians, younger age (odds ratio >3) and trauma (odds ratio >4) each played a role. PTSD was equally disabling in both populations but Vietnamese with the disorder reported more physical, and Australians more mental disability. Approximately one in three Australians and one in 10 Vietnamese with PTSD sought help from mental health professionals.


Trauma and PTSD continue to affect the mental health of Vietnamese refugees even after a decade of resettlement in Australia. The tendency of Vietnamese with PTSD to report symptoms of physical disability may create obstacles to their obtaining appropriate mental health care.

Key words

PTSD refugee Vietnamese epidemiology trauma mental disorders 



This study was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, grant numbers 980067 and 300403.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Derrick Silove
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Zachary Steel
    • 2
  • Adrian Bauman
    • 3
  • Tien Chey
    • 2
  • Alexander McFarlane
    • 4
  1. 1.Psychiatry Research and Teaching Unit, Level 1, Mental Health CentreLiverpool HospitalLiverpoolAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Population Mental Health ResearchSydney South West Area Health Service and Psychiatry Research and Teaching Unit, School of Psychiatry, University of New South WalesSydneyAustralia
  3. 3.School of Public Health, University of SydneySydneyAustralia
  4. 4.The Centre of Military and Veteran’s HealthUniversity of AdelaideAdelaideAustralia

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