New study on asylum seekers' mental health

26 April 2011

A new study into asylum seekers' symptoms of psychological distress report reports that their unique social position might affect their mental health. The authors note that the terms ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘refugee’ tend to be used interchangeably. However, asylum seekers occupy a unique position in British society which differentiates them from people with refugee status and which may have implications for their mental health. For example, ‘asylum seekers’ are supported and accommodated in dispersal areas under the National Asylum Support Service and they are not entitled to work.

The report is on a mixed-methods study investigating asylum seekers' symptoms of psychological distress, using mental health screening questionnaires (N = 29) and asylum seekers' subjective experiences of the asylum process, its potential impacts on their mental health, and participants' suggestions for tackling mental health needs, using in-depth interviews (N = 8).

Asylum seekers originated from 13 countries. The results revealed that psychological distress is common among asylum seekers (for example anxiety and post-traumatic stress), but so are post-migratory living difficulties (for example accommodation, discrimination, worry about family back home, not being allowed to work). They also report mixed experiences of health and social care services.

The full research paper, published in International Journal of Migration, Health and Social Care, is available via the following link:

Authors are Dora Bernardes, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services, NHS Lothian; John Wright, Adult Mental Health Clinical Psychology, Plymouth PCT; Celia Edwards, Helen Tomkins and Darias Dlfoz, Asylum Seeker and Refugee Mental Health Team, NHS Plymouth; and Andrew G Livingstone, University of Stirling.