Impact of ethnicity, violence and acculturation on displaced migrants: psychological distress and psychosomatic complaints among refugees in Sweden

J Nerv Ment Dis. 2000 Jun;188(6):357-65. doi: 10.1097/00005053-200006000-00006.


This study uses data collected in 1996 by the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare. By means of interviews with 1980 foreign-born immigrants, an attempt was made to determine the impact of a) migration status (country of birth/ethnicity), b) exposure to violence, c) Antonovsky's sense of coherence, d) acculturation status (knowledge of Swedish), e) sense of control over one's life, f) economic difficulties, and g) education, both on psychological distress (using General Health Questionnaire 12) and psychosomatic complaints (daytime fatigue, sleeping difficulties, and headache/migraine). Iranians and Chileans (age-adjusted) were at great risk for psychological distress as compared with Poles, whereas Turks and Kurds exhibited no such risk. When the independent factors were included in the model, the migration status effect decreased to insignificance (with the exception of Iranian men). A low sense of coherence, poor acculturation (men only), poor sense of control, and economic difficulties were strongly associated with the outcomes, generally accounting for a convincing link between migration status and psychological distress. Furthermore, a low sense of coherence, poor acculturation (men only), poor sense of control, and economic difficulties in exile seemed to be stronger risk factors for psychological distress in this group than exposure to violence before migration.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acculturation*
  • Adult
  • Chile / ethnology
  • Cross-Cultural Comparison
  • Ethnicity / psychology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Iran / ethnology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Outcome Assessment, Health Care
  • Poland / ethnology
  • Prevalence
  • Psychophysiologic Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Random Allocation
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress, Psychological / epidemiology*
  • Sweden / epidemiology
  • Turkey / ethnology
  • Violence / psychology*
  • Violence / statistics & numerical data