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Anxiety, depression and PTSD in asylum-seekers: Assocations with pre-migration trauma and post-migration stressors

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  03 January 2018

Derrick Silove*
School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Liverpool Hospital, Australia
Ingrid Sinnerbrink
School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Liverpool Hospital, Australia
Annette Field
Asylum Seekers Centre, Surry Hills, Australia
Vijaya Manicavasagar
Psychiatry Research and Teaching Unit, Liverpool Hospital, Australia
Zachary Steel
Psychiatry Research and Teaching Unit, Liverpool Hospital, Australia
Professor Derrick Silove, Psychiatry Research and Teaching Unit, School of Psychiatry, University of New South Wales, Level 4 Health Services Building, Liverpool Hospital, Liverpool, NSW 2170, Australia



Research into the mental health of refugees has burgeoned in recent times, but there is a dearth of studies focusing specifically on the factors associated with psychiatric distress in asylum-seekers who have not been accorded residency status.


Forty consecutive asylum-seekers attending a community resource centre in Sydney, Australia, were interviewed using structured instruments and questionnaires.


Anxiety scores were associated with female gender, poverty, and conflict with immigration officials, while loneliness and boredom were linked with both anxiety and depression. Thirty subjects (79%) had experienced atraumatic event such as witnessing killings, being assaulted, or suffering torture and captivity, and 14 subjects (37%) met full criteria for PTSD. A diagnosis of PTSD was associated with greater exposure to pre-migration trauma, delays in processing refugee applications, difficulties in dealing with immigration officials, obstacles to employment, racial discrimination, and loneliness and boredom.


Although based on correlational data derived from a convenient'sample, our findings raise the possibility that current procedures for dealing with asylum-seekers may contribute to high levels of stress and psychiatric symptoms in those who have been previously traumatised.

Copyright © 1997 The Royal College of Psychiatrists 

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