Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 1247–1261 | Cite as

Psychological Distress in Afghan Refugees: A Mixed-Method Systematic Review

  • Qais Alemi
  • Sigrid James
  • Romalene Cruz
  • Veronica Zepeda
  • Michael Racadio
Original Paper


Mental health problems disproportionately affect Afghan refugees and asylum seekers who continue to seek international protection with prolonged exposure to war. We performed a systematic review aimed at synthesizing peer-reviewed literature pertaining to mental health problems among Afghans resettled in industrialized nations. We used five databases to identify studies published between 1979 and 2013 that provided data on distress levels, and subjective experiences with distress. Seventeen studies met our inclusion criteria consisting of 1 mixed-method, 7 qualitative, and 9 quantitative studies. Themes from our qualitative synthesis described antecedents for distress being rooted in cultural conflicts and loss, and also described unique coping mechanisms. Quantitative findings indicated moderate to high prevalence of depressive and posttraumatic symptomatology. These findings support the need for continued mental health research with Afghans that accounts for: distress among newly resettled groups, professional help-seeking utilization patterns, and also culturally relevant strategies for mitigating distress and engaging Afghans in research.


Afghan Depression Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) Qualitative Refugee Trauma 



This manuscript was supported in part by the Sigma Xi dissertation scholarship, Loma Linda University (recipient Q. Alemi) and by NIMH K01 MH077732-01A1 (PI: S. James).

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qais Alemi
    • 1
    • 2
  • Sigrid James
    • 1
  • Romalene Cruz
    • 1
  • Veronica Zepeda
    • 1
  • Michael Racadio
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Social Work and Social Ecology, School of Behavioral HealthLoma Linda UniversityLoma LindaUSA
  2. 2.San BernardinoUSA

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