Background: Refugees and asylum seekers may have other feelings and expectations about the future than immigrants do. The aim of this study was to explore and analyse the expectations for the future among populations of immigrants, asylum seekers and refugees admitted to Norwegian acute psychiatric departments.
Method: In a prospective study in the period 2005 to 2008, data were collected from two acute psychiatric departments.
Results: There were 48 immigrants, 24 refugees, and 21 asylum seekers. A significantly higher proportion of asylum seekers than refugees had nightmares (p = 0.04), feelings of guilt (p = 0.04) and feelings of hopelessness (p = 0.04). A significantly higher proportion of asylum seekers than immigrants had sleeping problems (p = 0.03), nightmares (p = 0.03), feelings of hopelessness (p = 0.03) and reduced appetite (p = 0.04). Significantly more asylum seekers than refugees maintained that life would change for the better over time (Z = 2.0; p = 0.04). More refugees than asylum seekers indicated problems judging life ten years from now (Z = 2.1; p = 0.04).
Conclusion: Being an asylum seeker seems to incur greater distress and higher negative expectations for the future. Preventive strategies should be created to improve refugees’ and asylum seekers’ life in exile. Priority and speed in processing of asylum cases should be given higher priority.