The health of Bosnian refugees in Canada

Ethn Health. 1999 Feb-May;4(1-2):65-82. doi: 10.1080/13557859998209.


Many investigators of refugee health have assumed that due to the stresses associated with trauma and forced resettlement, refugees experience more pathology and resulting poor health than their host populations. However, because contradictory findings have emerged from some of these studies, a clear connection between the experiences of trauma, resettlement and health remain ambiguous.

Objectives: The goal of this descriptive study was to put aside initial assumptions pertaining to the health of Bosnian refugees in the study. Rather, health was defined primarily by participants, through personal descriptions and perceptions of their experiences and associated health over time.

Design: Ten Bosnian refugees were selected according to age, gender, ability to speak English, and period of time in Canada. Each participant was interviewed on three occasions over a 3-month period in order to gather information pertaining to their experiences and health. Qualitative and quantitative methods were triangulated, that is, an informal, unstructured interview was augmented by investigator observations and structured health and demographic questions.

Results: The findings have shown that while war trauma and forced resettlement indeed posed serious risks to participants' health, on balance, they verbalized and were observed to be experiencing positive health and function.

Conclusions: The ability of experience positive health and function in varying degrees following exposure to war trauma and forced resettlement appeared to be largely due to interactions between life events and cumulative personal, psychosocial, and cultural characteristics over time that modified the health risks associated with war trauma and forced resettlement.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adult
  • Anthropology, Cultural
  • Attitude to Health*
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina / ethnology
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Family / psychology
  • Female
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Sex Factors
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Survival
  • Warfare