Prevalence of Mental Distress Among Syrian Refugees With Residence Permission in Germany: A Registry-Based Study

Front Psychiatry. 2018 Aug 28;9:393. doi: 10.3389/fpsyt.2018.00393. eCollection 2018.


Background: High rates of prevalence of mental distress among the Syrian refugee population have been repeatedly confirmed. However, little is known about the influence of length of stay, living conditions, and residence permission in the host country or about the duration of the escape journey and travel conditions on mental health in this refugee population. This study examines the mental health of Syrian refugees, taking into account the circumstances in their country of origin and host country, as well as their escape conditions. Methods: This investigation formed part of a registry-based study. A sample of 518 adult Syrian refugees in Erlangen, Germany, who have residence permission was identified. The response rate was 38.6%; a total of 200 Syrian refugees thus participated in the study. The respondents were investigated for post-traumatic stress disorder (ETI), depression (PHQ-9), generalized anxiety (GAD-7) and post-migration variables. Results: The prevalence of participants who had personally experienced and/or witnessed traumatic events was 75.3%. Symptoms of PTSD were found in 11.4% of the participants. Moderate to severe depression was confirmed in 14.5% and moderate to severe generalized anxiety in 13.5% of the sample. The criteria for at least one diagnosis were met by 30.5% of the participants. More severe PTSD symptoms were associated with older age, shorter validity of the residence permit, larger number of traumatic events (TEs) and higher generalized anxiety symptoms. Depression symptoms were associated with younger age, shorter duration of escape journey, larger number of TEs and higher generalized anxiety symptoms. Generalized anxiety symptoms correlated with female gender, PTSD, and depression symptoms. Conclusions: These findings suggest that Syrian refugees in Germany are a vulnerable population, especially if they have experienced and/or witnessed multiple traumatic events. However, post-migration conditions and positive future prospects in the host country can be protective factors for this population.

Keywords: Germany; PTSD; depression; generalized anxiety; mental health; post-migration variables; residence permission; syrian refugees.