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

A comparison with the Australian-born population

Abstract

Background

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.

Method

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).

Results

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.

Conclusions

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.

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Acknowledgement

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

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Correspondence to Prof. Derrick Silove.

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Silove, D., Steel, Z., Bauman, A. et al. Trauma, PTSD and the longer-term mental health burden amongst Vietnamese refugees. Soc Psychiat Epidemiol 42, 467–476 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00127-007-0194-z

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Key words

  • PTSD
  • refugee
  • Vietnamese
  • epidemiology
  • trauma
  • mental disorders