Journal of Traumatic Stress Disorders & TreatmentISSN: 2324-8947

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The Prevalence of Potentially Traumatic Pre-Migration Experiences: A Population- Based Study of Russian, Somali and Kurdish Origin Migrants in Finland

Background: On-going mass conflicts and the resulting flow of displaced persons have increased interest in potentially traumatic experiences (PTEs) of migrants. However, studies on the topic using population-based samples are still scarce. Aims: The present study aims 1) to assess the prevalence of specific PTEs in Finland's migrant population and 2) to determine whether socio-demographic and migration-related factors are associated with PTEs.

Methods: Data from the Finnish Migrant Health and Wellbeing Study (Maamu), a cross-sectional interview and health examination survey, was used. The sample comprised Russian; Somali and Kurdish migrants aged 18-64. PTEs, with eight specified traumatic event items common among those exposed to war and conflict, were measured using interview questions.

Results: The prevalence of having at least one PTE was 21% among Russian, 58% among Somalian and 77% among Kurdish origin migrants, higher in Kurdish men than women and lower in Somali men than women. The most typical forms of PTEs among Kurds and Somalis were war and witnessing a violent death or injury. The most severe events (e.g. torture) were more common and the highest cumulative number of PTEs was among Kurds. Migrating as a refugee or asylum seeker was not associated with higher prevalence of PTEs.

Conclusions: Results indicated an alarmingly high overall PTE prevalence among Kurdish and Somali migrants in Finland, especially among Kurds. Results suggest that effort to identify PTEs and interventions should be targeted not only at those migrating with a refugee of asylum seeker status but all migrants from conflict areas.

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