The prevalence of mental illness in refugees and asylum seekers

Refugee & Iron Wire Fence

source: PLOS Medicine
published: 21 September 2020

Globally, the number of refugees and asylum seekers has reached record highs. Past research in refugee mental health has reported wide variation in mental illness prevalence data, partially attributable to methodological limitations. This systematic review aims to summarise the current body of evidence for the prevalence of mental illness in global refugee populations and overcome methodological limitations of individual studies.

Methods and findings:
A comprehensive search of electronic databases was undertaken from 1 January 2003 to 4 February 2020 (MEDLINE In-Process, EBM Reviews, Embase, PsycINFO, CINAHL, PILOTS, Web of Science). Quantitative studies were included if diagnosis of mental illness involved a clinical interview and use of a validated assessment measure and reported at least 50 participants.

Study quality was assessed using a descriptive approach based on a template according to study design (modified Newcastle-Ottawa Scale). Random-effects models, based on inverse variance weights, were conducted.

Subgroup analyses were performed for sex, sample size, displacement duration, visa status, country of origin, current residence, type of interview (interpreter-assisted or native language), and diagnostic measure. The systematic review was registered with PROSPERO (CRD) 42016046349.

The search yielded a result of 21,842 records. Twenty-six studies, which included one randomised controlled trial and 25 observational studies, provided results for 5,143 adult refugees and asylum seekers.

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