Study Finds High Psychosis Risk Among Europe’s Refugee Migrants

Kate Kelland, Reuters, March 16, 2016

Refugees fleeing war, violence and persecution have a much higher risk of developing psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia than people who migrate for economic or social reasons, according to research published on Tuesday.

Researchers writing in the BMJ British medical journal said their findings suggest government healthcare officials in countries taking in refugees should plan to be able to help higher numbers of mental health patients.

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Refugees have a raised risk of mental conditions such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)–which brings flashbacks and panic attacks and can render patients emotionally volatile–but until now little has been known about the risk of psychosis.

So a team from Sweden’s Karolinska Institutet and Britain’s University College London used national register data to look at more than 1.3 million people in Sweden, and tracked diagnoses of non-affective psychotic disorders among the population.

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Those studied included people born to two Swedish-born parents, refugees, and non-refugee migrants from the four major refugee generating regions: the Middle East and north Africa, sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe and Russia.

Their results showed a total of 3,704 cases of psychotic disorders, with refugees given asylum some 66 percent more likely to develop schizophrenia or another psychotic disorder than non-refugee migrants. Refugees were also up to 3.6 times more likely suffer psychosis than the Swedish-born population.

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