Introduction: International studies have shown high incidences of symptoms regarding anxiety, depression, and post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among asylum seekers of different ethnicities. The aim of the present study was to investigate the presence of symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD among rejected Iraqi asylum seekers in two Danish Red Cross asylum centers. Factors such as the length of stay in an asylum center and the number of traumatic events were considered as risk factors associated with the degree of psychological morbidity.
Method: In 2007, 53 rejected Iraqi asylum seekers from two Danish Red Cross centers completed a survey based on the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire-IV (HTQ) and the Hopkins Symptom Checklist 25 (HSCL-25). The response rate was 36%. The analyses focused on the impact of gender, age, marriage, religion, the length of stay at the asylum center, and the number of traumatic events on the severity of symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD.
Findings: Of all participants, 94% were found to have symptoms of anxiety, 100% had symptoms of depression, and 77% had symptoms of PTSD. The participants had experienced or witnessed an average of 8.5 traumatic events before their arrival in Denmark. There was no significant association between the number of traumatic events, and the symptoms of PTSD. In addition, there was no significant difference in the length of stay and symptoms of anxiety, depression, and PTSD despite the fact that 79% of the participants had stayed in an asylum center for 5-10 years or more.
Conclusion: Despite the limitations of the data, such as the small sample, this study showed that the prevalence rates of psychopathology in Iraqi asylum seekers in Denmark were alarmingly high. Therefore, it is recommended that systematic screening of all detained asylum seekers in Denmark is introduced. Given the degree of mental health problems it is also recommended that procedures be changed and that treatment should be offered to asylum seekers who are detained in Danish asylum centers.