Exploring the scope, depth of trauma in migrant populations

Feb 12, 2016 — A timely collection of papers on trauma and adversity among migrating populations has been published today in the European Journal of Psychotraumatology. The special issue covers a spectrum of topics – from an association between maternal trauma and posttraumatic stress disorder and impaired fetal development, to social integration as a key post-migration factor associated with poor mental health outcomes.

“The psychological trauma experienced by refugees can and often does have significant and long-term impact on the individuals and their families – and research we’re publishing today shows the impact can have a long arm that even reaches into the next generation,” said Miranda Olff, chief editor of the Journal, and past President of both the European and the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.

The paper Olff refers to indicating multigenerational effects of PTSD reports mothers’ traumatic event exposure being significantly associated with reduced infant head circumference.

It was Olff who, in the midst of a growing international refugee crisis that dominated headlines in 2015, recognized a particular need that she felt the Journal could – and should — address.

“We need a better understanding of the scope and impact of the psychological trauma being experienced by these uprooted individuals and families – who suddenly find themselves in foreign environments, oftentimes struggling to find their place in a culture very different from their own.”

Olff has long studied PTSD and has authored dozens of papers on the topic. Last year, she met fellow researcher Brian J. Hall at a regional ISTSS meeting in Hangzhou, China, where she heard him speaking on his research on health and migration. She invited Hall to serve as guest editor for a special issue around the theme “Trauma and adversity among populations in transition.”

Hall is Director of the Global and Community Mental Health Research Group at the University of Macau, as well as a Research Associate at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, USA, and Visiting Professor at the School of Public Health, Center for Migrant Health Policy, Sun Yat-sen University, Guangzhou, China. Hall’s research has focused on mental and physical health issues experienced by Chinese migrant workers, African Migrants in China, and migrant workers from across Southeast Asia.

Hall, who together with Olff co-authored the special issue’s editorial, said that one particular paper in the issue is a first to look at the prevalence of PTSD and depression among Iraqi refugees. “It important that this group of Iraqi Yazidi refugees are represented in this type of study,” said Hall.

Another study explores how family trauma may influence later delinquency and puts forth suggestions for treatment planning. “The study suggests that in addition to family difficulties, children may also have an underlying vulnerability to aggression,” said Hall. And this, the author asserts, should be included in treatment planning.

“The UN estimates that more than 244 million people currently live outside of their country of origin,” said Hall. “Clearly, this presents a global challenge for how we will address the related psychological stress.”

“Research such as this on migrating populations is essential to meeting the challenge.”

The entire special issue is freely available online at the European Journal of Psychotraumatology.



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The European Journal of Psychotraumatology (EJPT) aims to engage scholars, clinicians and researchers in the crucial discourse about how to prevent post-traumatic stress syndrome and other trauma disorders, and how to intervene in the wide spectrum of post-traumatic situations using the latest research in these areas.The entire special issue is freely available online at the European Journal of Psychotraumatology.