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Undocumented adult migrants in Sweden: mental health and associated factors

Journal article
Authors Lena Andersson
Anders Hjern
Henry Ascher
Published in BMC Public Health
Volume 18
Issue 1369
ISSN 1471-2458
Publication year 2018
Published at Institute of Medicine, School of Public Health and Community Medicine
Department of Social Work
Language en
Keywords Undocumented migrants, Mental health, Sweden
Subject categories Social Work, Public Health, Global Health, Social Medicine and Epidemiology


Undocumented migrants (UMs) in Europe constitute a heterogeneous group. They are typically in a vulnerable and marginalised situation, since most of them have exhausted their options for gaining asylum and protection from war and persecution, many are traumatised and fear disclosure and deportation, and they typically lack basic social security. The present study investigates living conditions, access to human rights and mental health of UMs living in Sweden. A cross-sectional study with adult UMs was performed in the three largest cities in Sweden in 2014 – 2016. Sampling was done via informal networks. A socioeconomic questionnaire was constructed, and psychiatric symptoms were screened for using Beck ’ s Depression Inventory II, Beck ’ s Anxiety Inventory and the PTSD Checklist (PCL) for civilians. Trained field workers conducted the interviews. Descriptive statistics, chi-square tests and logistic regression models were used. Results: A total number of 104 individuals participated. Preliminary findings show that 68% of respondents were suffering from either moderate or severe anxiety, 71% from either moderate or severe depression and 58% from PTSD. No statistically significant gender differences occurred, but age was statistically significant in relation to anxiety and depression. The majority feared returning to their country of origin, for political reasons, due to war in progress there and/or because they belonged to a minority and feared harassment. Almost all had an unstable housing situation and were often forced to move. Fifty-seven percent experienced food insecurity. The psychosocial situation among UMs in Sweden, in addition to insecure living conditions without a guarantee of basic needs being met is stressful, and many UMs live in constant fear of disclosure and deportation, all of which has a detrimental effect of the mental health. It is important to understand both associated risk factors for ill-health and coping strategies in this vulnerable population in order try to reduce ongoing stress.

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