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Andersson, Hjern & Ascher, 2018 🔗

Undocumented Adult Migrants in Sweden: Mental Health and Associated Factors

Year: 2018

Type of text: Academic article

Published by:  BMC Public Health

Language: English

Author: Lena Andersson, Anders Hjern & Henry Ascher

Pages: 9

Available at:

Short description of text 

The article focuses on mental health and present findings concerning the prevalence of and risk factors for anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress syndrome among adult undocumented migrants in Sweden.

Most important results

– Alarmingly high rates of depression, anxiety and PTSD were found. No statistically significant gender differences were found, but age was statistically significant in relation to anxiety and depression.  A total of 68% of the respondents suffered from either moderate or severe anxiety, 71% from either moderate or severe depression and 58% fulfilled the criteria for a PTSD diagnosis. 

– Harsh living conditions and an unstable housing situation was identified as a major risk factor for poor mental health: ‘Having an unstable housing situation was associated with particularly high scores on both the anxiety and depression scales, with 31% living in temporary places or shelters. It seems likely, however, that this is just the heaviest of risk factors in a cumulative load of daily stressors and fears that create the context for this very poor mental health situation 
 57% of the UM in our sample stated that they were often hungry and that churches and voluntary organisations were important in providing food as well as meeting basic social needs such as clothes and items necessary to survive the day’ (p. 7).

– The results ‘suggests that for PTSD to be overcome it is crucial that the person feels safe and secure in a long-term perspective, and access to care and counselling is crucial. For UMs this state is never present 
 Except for the stress-related factors previously mentioned, adverse social and economic conditions increase the risk of developing an illness but may also hamper recovery from existing illness’ (p. 5). 

– ‘Although UMs endure harsh conditions and the majority state that their health has deteriorated while being undocumented, they had still chosen to stay in Sweden. There were many reasons for this: they feared returning to their country of origin since there was a war going on there, they feared going back for political reasons, for religious reasons, or they belonged to a minority and feared harassment. For many it was better to stay and apply for asylum again after four years when rejection decisions expire in Sweden or to move somewhere else than to travel back to the country of origin due to a fear of what they would encounter there’ (p. 7). 


A cross-sectional study with adult undocumented migrants in the three largest cities in Sweden in 2014–2016. Sampling 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. Descriptive statistics, chi-square tests and logistic regression models were used.

Summarized by: Alva Nissen