Screening for posttraumatic stress disorder in young adult refugees from Syria and Iraq

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Introduction: In January 2016, 2057 refugees from civil war-torn Syria and Iraq, aged 18.0 to 24.9 years, were first-time entrants into the German unemployment register and thus potentially eligible for the labor market. Civil war and forced migration may affect individuals' mental health. Traumatic experiences in particular are assumed to represent a major barrier, e.g., to labor-market integration. This study aimed to screen the rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Former refugee studies have reported PTSD screening rates between 3% and 44%. Method: A total of 8.5% (N = 175 of 2057) of respondents were randomly interviewed either by telephone or web-based interviews. A total of 84 respondents (48% out of 175 respondents) were screened using the Essen Trauma Inventory (ETI) based on the DSM-IV, and 91 (52%) respondents used the Short Screening Scale for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (SSS-PSD). All respondents were additionally questioned regarding psychological impairment (Symptom Checklist 10) and health status (Short Form 12). Results: Of the respondents, 59.4% reported at least one traumatic experience. The percentage of positive PTSD screenings obtained using the ETI was 9.5% (N = 84) and 6.6% (N = 91) using the SSS-PSD. The percentage of positive PTSD screenings obtained with both screening instruments was 8% (N = 175; 95%-CI: 3.9% to 12.1%). A total of 19.4% of the subjects were above the SCL-10 cut-off for psychiatric caseness. Discussion: The PTSD rate in this sample was in the average range compared to previous estimates from large samples of refugees. Psychiatric caseness was high. The results should be considered for planning labor-market integration programs and the design of supportive schemes.




Dietrich, H., Al Ali, R., Tagay, S., Hebebrand, J., & Reissner, V. (2019). Screening for posttraumatic stress disorder in young adult refugees from Syria and Iraq. Comprehensive Psychiatry, 90, 73–81.

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