Mental Health Impact of Hosting Disaster Refugees: Analyses from a Random Sample Survey Among Haitians Living in Miami

South Med J. 2016 Aug;109(8):458-64. doi: 10.14423/SMJ.0000000000000502.


Objectives: Studies on the mental health of families hosting disaster refugees are lacking. This study compares participants in households that hosted 2010 Haitian earthquake disaster refugees with their nonhost counterparts.

Methods: A random sample survey was conducted from October 2011 through December 2012 in Miami-Dade County, Florida. Haitian participants were assessed regarding their 2010 earthquake exposure and impact on family and friends and whether they hosted earthquake refugees. Using standardized scores and thresholds, they were evaluated for symptoms of three common mental disorders (CMDs): posttraumatic stress disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and major depressive disorder (MDD).

Results: Participants who hosted refugees (n = 51) had significantly higher percentages of scores beyond thresholds for MDD than those who did not host refugees (n = 365) and for at least one CMD, after adjusting for participants' earthquake exposures and effects on family and friends.

Conclusions: Hosting refugees from a natural disaster appears to elevate the risk for MDD and possibly other CMDs, independent of risks posed by exposure to the disaster itself. Families hosting refugees deserve special attention.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Anxiety Disorders / etiology
  • Depressive Disorder, Major / etiology
  • Disasters*
  • Earthquakes*
  • Female
  • Florida / epidemiology
  • Haiti / ethnology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Disorders / etiology*
  • Middle Aged
  • Refugees / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires