Objectives: To compare levels of depression, anxiety, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) amongst immigration detainees with a comparison group of asylum seekers living within the community.
Design: A cross-sectional questionnaire study.
Methods: Sixty-seven detained asylum seekers, 30 detainees who had previously been imprisoned within the UK for criminal offences, and 49 asylum seekers living in the community completed the hospital anxiety and depression scale (HADS) and the impact of event scale-revised (IES-R). Demographic information was collected.
Results: High levels of anxiety, depression, and PTSD symptoms were reported by all three groups. Detained asylum seekers had higher scores than asylum seekers living within the community for depression, anxiety, and PTSD symptoms. There was an interaction between length of detention period and prior exposure to interpersonal trauma (IP trauma) on depression scores.
Conclusions: Immigration detainees are highly vulnerable to psychological distress. A review of detention policies is recommended in light of this. Immigration detention may have an independent adverse effect on mental health. It is also possible that individuals with mental health problems may be more likely to be detained. Further research is required to investigate this.