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Trauma, Post-Migration Stress, and Mental Health: A Comparative Analysis of Refugees and Immigrants in the United States


Numerous studies describe mental health effects of pre-migration trauma and post-resettlement stress among refugees, yet less research examines these associations with non-refugee immigrants. Additionally, few studies assess the prevalence and impact of traumatic experiences after settlement in a new country. Using a U.S.-based representative sample of Asian (n = 1637) and Latino (n = 1620) refugees and immigrants, we investigated how traumatic events prior to and after migration, and post-migration stressors, are associated with mental illness and distress. Pre-migration trauma posed risk across a broad range of psychological outcomes for Asian refugees and Latino immigrants. Deleterious effects of post-migration trauma were notable for both groups of refugees and immigrants. Discrimination, acculturative stress, and family conflict increased risk for disorder and distress across groups in complex ways. Findings highlight the importance of examining trauma and stress at pre- and post-migration phases across migrant populations, including those not labeled as refugees.

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