Refugees More Likely to Experience Mental Illness Even Years After Arriving in Canada
While it’s well known the hardships that refugees face as they try to navigate their new lives in a foreign country, a recent study has revealed the full extent of the mental anguish older refugees continue to experience even years after settling in Canada.
According to the study carried out by the University of Toronto, refugees were found to be 70 per cent more likely to experience depression than natural-born Canadian citizens.
The study examined 29,670 Canadian refugees, non-refugee immigrants, and natural-born citizens aged between 45 and 85.
Among the refugees that were studied, half had been settled in Canada for more than four decades.
“The greater prevalence of depression among refugees — half of whom arrived more than four decades ago — underlines the importance of providing mental health resources for our refugee community both immediately after arrival, but also in the ensuing decades,” said the study.
The study also took into account age, sex, marital status, income, education, and health, and found that the disparity remained.
As for why refugees were found to have such a high instance of mental illness, the data was unable to pinpoint a specific cause. However, the study cites a lack of social support as one of the potential key factors, along with past traumas such as:
- Forced displacement
- Human trafficking
- Sexual assault
- Family separation
“Our findings indicate that the refugee experience casts a long shadow across an individual’s lifespan,” said one of the study’s authors, Shen (Lamson) Lin.
The researchers also studied the prevalence of depression among immigrants who did not arrive as refugees, which was found to be 16.6 per cent. In comparison, 22 per cent of the refugees studied indicated that they experienced depression.
Meanwhile, for Canadian-born citizens, the prevalence of depression was measured at just 15.2 per cent.
The main conclusion the study drew from this was that post-migration challenges such as discrimination, language barriers, and unemployment are less likely to lead to depression than pre-migration trauma.
The study also referenced the support that privately sponsored refugees received compared to government-sponsored, stating that more social support for all refugees is a key component of minimizing levels of depression.
“This highlights the importance of investigating ways to promote powerful positive social relations among refugees and asylum seekers in their families, neighbourhoods and communities,” said study co-author Karen Kobayashi.