Organised violence and the stress of exile. Predictors of mental health in a community cohort of Vietnamese refugees three years after resettlement.

E Hauff , P Vaglum

Abstract

BACKGROUND The prevalence and course of mental disorders among Vietnamese refugees were studied, using a model including variables from different research traditions.

METHOD A consecutive community cohort of 145 Vietnamese boat refugees aged 15 and above were personally interviewed on their arrival in Norway and three years later.

RESULTS Three years later, there was, unexpectedly, no decline in self-rated psychological distress (SCL-90-R), almost one in four suffered from psychiatric disorder and the prevalence of depression was 17.7% (Present State Examination). Female gender, extreme traumatic stress in Vietnam, negative life events in Norway, lack of a close confidant and chronic family separation were identified as predictors of psychopathology.

CONCLUSIONS The effects of war and persecution were long-lasting, and compounded by adversity factors in exile. A uniform course of improvement in mental health after resettlement cannot be expected in all contexts. The affected refugees need systematic rehabilitation.