Asylum seekers, violence and health: a systematic review of research in high-income host countries

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The twenty-three reviewed studies suggest that asylum seekers have a high exposure to many forms of violence and their health consequences, particularly torture and associated health correlates. However, the review’s findings were limited due to the heterogeneity of the included studies and their study populations.

As asylum seekers are often persecuted in their country of origin, many have experienced violence in their history of conflict. The authors aimed to quantitatively describe violence exposure among adults seeking asylum in high-income host countries. The studied variables included any quantitative data on physical violence, torture, sexual violence, suicide, and self-harm, as well as their respective health correlates. Findings on sexual violence and self-harm were limited, as most studies present gender-aggregated data. The review’s conclusions regarding torture were the most substantial as at least 30% of the participant populations in each study had experienced torture. Torture history also correlated with hunger and post-traumatic stress disorder in small, non-representative samples. However, the included studies were highly heterogenous in both study population and correlates examined. As such, the authors caution that further research is necessary to confirm any conclusions.

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