August 4, 2011

‘Internally’ Displaced by War

(Ivanhoe Newswire)--Individuals around the world are internally displaced every year as a result of armed conflict. Residents of Sri Lanka, who were internally displaced during the civil war they experienced in their country from 1983 to 2009, were found to have a higher prevalence of mental health conditions including depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder. As quoted in the background article of the study, "Nearly 2.7 million individuals worldwide are internally displaced annually by armed conflict. The Sri Lankan conflict resulted in approximately 100,000 deaths and displacement of 800,000 people during the 26-year war."

Farah Husain, D.M.D, M.P.H of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, conducted a health survey among the residents of Jaffna District of Sri Lanka to assess the association between displacement status and common war-related mental health conditions. The survey took place from July through September of 2009 and included 1,517 households and two internally displaced people's camps. In the study, two percent of participants were currently displaced, 29.5 percent were recently resettled, and 68.5 percent were long-term residents. Of the total group of participants, 376 experienced no traumatic events; 578 reported experiencing one to four events; 336 experienced five to nine events; and 72 experienced 10 or more.

Researchers found that the odds of reporting post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were significantly higher than that of long-term residents. Also females were more likely to report symptoms of anxiety and depression than males. Authors of the study also found that displacement was not associated with mental health symptoms after controlling for trauma exposure. Authors of the study were quoted stating, "Although the association between displacement status and symptoms of PTSD, depression, and anxiety was no longer significant after adjusting for trauma exposure in the study, the act of being displaced and the daily stressors associated with it may be considered traumatic in themselves and may be an indicator or proxy for recent trauma as well. Therefore the relationship between displacement status and mental health symptoms may be driven by the underlying trauma events displaced persons have experienced, events that likely caused them to leave their homes."

Researchers suggest that interventions in the Jaffna District should include support from family, friends, religious leaders, and traditional counselors.

SOURCE: JAMA and Archives Journals, August 4, 2011