Older refugees more likely to struggle with depression, even decades after coming to Canada

January 24, 2020

By CTV News |

Older refugees have high levels of depression even decades after immigrating to Canada, mostly due to past traumas and lack of social support, according to a new University of Toronto study.

The findings — released this week in the Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health —determined that among a study sample of 29,670 Canadians aged 45 to 85 taken from the ongoing Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging, refugees were 70 per cent more likely to suffer from depression than natural-born citizens.

“Our findings indicate that the refugee experience casts a long shadow across an individual’s lifespan,” first study author and University of Toronto doctoral student Shen Lamson Lin said in a release.

Lin said the researchers’ data did not capture the exact reasons for the high levels of depression among refugees, but they believe it “may be influenced by exposure to pre-migration traumas such as genocide, forced displacement, human trafficking, sexual assault, famine and separation from family.”

The study investigated several factors that may have influenced levels of depression, including age, sex, marital status, income, education health and social contracts. But “even when these characteristics were accounted for, refugees still had higher odds of depression that individuals born in Canada,” the release said.

The researchers also investigated depression among immigrants who did not arrive as refugees, in order to better understand post-migration challenges, such as racial discrimination, language barriers and higher levels of unemployment, that affect all immigrants to Canada and the pre-migration trauma unique to refugees.

The prevalence of depression among non-refugee immigrants was measured at 16.6 per cent, similar to that of their Canadian-born peers at 15.2 per cent. The prevalence of depression among refugees was measured 22 per cent.

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