European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry

, Volume 28, Issue 12, pp 1671–1682 | Cite as

Long-term mental health in unaccompanied refugee minors: pre- and post-flight predictors

  • Tine K. JensenEmail author
  • Ane-Marthe Solheim Skar
  • Elin Sofia Andersson
  • Marianne Skogbrott Birkeland
Original Contribution


Unaccompanied refugee minors are a particularly vulnerable group. The aim of this study is to increase our knowledge about possible pathways to well-being and integration for unaccompanied refugee minors as they strive to establish new lives in a host county. The present study followed a group of youth who fled to Norway without their caregivers at three time points; 6 months (n = 95; M age = 13.8, 80% boys), 2 years (n = 78; M age = 16.5, 83% boys), and 5 years (n = 47; M age 20.0, 83% boys) after arrival. Linear mixed effects models were used to assess whether age, gender, and trauma exposure prior to arrival were associated with levels and changes in symptoms of posttraumatic stress (PTS), depression, anxiety, and externalizing symptoms over time. Regression analyses were conducted to examine whether daily hassles, perceived social support, and new trauma experiences predict PTS, internalization, externalization, and somatization. The mean levels of depression had decreased significantly at 5 years, but mean levels of anxiety, PTS, and externalizing symptoms did not. Females and severely trauma exposed had higher levels of symptoms. Higher age was associated with less change in symptoms of depression and posttraumatic stress over time. Five years after arrival, many still experienced clinical levels of mental health problems, and level of daily hassles was an important predictor. Support may be needed not only at arrival to handle mental health problems in general and posttraumatic stress in particular, but also after resettlement. Help to manage daily hassles may be especially important to ensure well-being and integration.


Asylum seekers Daily hassles Social support Mental health trajectories Trauma Somatic complaints 



We would like to thank all the young refugees for participating in this study, and Tore Wentzel-Larsen for his statistical advice and comments. This work was supported by grants from The Norwegian Directorate of Health, and the Norwegian Extra Foundation for Health and Rehabilitation through The Norwegian Council for Mental Health.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical standards

The study has been approved by The National Committee for Medical and Health Research Ethics and has therefore been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki and its later amendments. All persons gave their informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study. Details that might disclose the identity of the subjects under study have been omitted.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologyUniversity of OsloOsloNorway
  2. 2.Norwegian Centre for Violence and Traumatic Stress StudiesOsloNorway
  3. 3.University of OsloOsloNorway

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