Background: Evidence is lacking on the mental health issues of internally displaced persons, particularly where displacement is prolonged. The COMRAID study was carried out in year 2011 as a comprehensive evaluation of Muslims in North-Western Sri Lanka who had been displaced since 1990 due to conflict, to investigate the prevalence and correlates of common mental disorders.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey was carried out among a randomly selected sample of internally displaced people who had migrated within last 20 years or were born in displacement. The total sample consisted of 450 adults aged 18-65 years selected from 141 settlements. Common mental disorders (CMDs) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) prevalences were measured using the Patient Health Questionnaire and CIDI sub-scale respectively.
Results: The prevalence of any CMD was 18.8%, and prevalence for subtypes was as follows: somatoform disorder 14.0%, anxiety disorder 1.3%, major depression 5.1%, other depressive syndromes 7.3%. PTSD prevalence was 2.4%. The following factors were significantly associated with CMDs: unemployment (odds ratio 2.8, 95% confidence interval 1.6-4.9), widowed or divorced status (4.9, 2.3-10.1) and food insecurity (1.7, 1.0-2.9).
Conclusions: This is the first study investigating the mental health impact of prolonged forced displacement in post-conflict Sri Lanka. Findings add new insight in to mental health issues faced by internally displaced persons in Sri Lanka and globally, highlighting the need to explore broader mental health issues of vulnerable populations affected by forced displacement.