Refugees often suffer severe emotional and physical traumas even before they embark on their journeys | Credit: DW/K. Zurutuza
Refugees often suffer severe emotional and physical traumas even before they embark on their journeys | Credit: DW/K. Zurutuza

A new study found that about 50 percent of refugees in Germany suffer psychological problems. The report also found that almost 75 percent of refugees interviewed had personally witnessed traumatic experiences.

The German public insurance company AOK released a report saying that three out of four refugees from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria had been witness to traumatic experiences and that 48 percent continued to suffer as a consequence. More than 60 percent of those surveyed stated that their traumatic experiences were related to being exposed war and conflict, while more than 40 percent said that they had been attacked directly during hostilities.

One third of those highlighted in the poll further specified that they had been witness to the abduction or murder of a loved one, while one in five reported having had to endure torture. Six percent of those partaking in the poll reported being subjected to sexual violence.

A total of 58 percent of those who took part in the study said that they had been subject to traumatic events on more than one occasion.

Migrants refrain from seeking medical help because of language barriers and cultural differences | Credit: picture alliance/dpa/I. Wagner

AOK spoke to more than 2,000 refugees from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq as part of an assessment on the overall wellbeing of refugees and migrants living in Germany. The study emphasized that such mental health problems often manifested in lethargy and depression (reported among 42.7 percent) or aggressive behavior patterns (reported among almost 43 percent) and could lead to chronic illnesses reaching from headaches to insomnia.

The authors of the report added that the results of the study were representative of a total of at least 600,000 refugees living in Germany with mental health problems. However, in recent years, only 17,500 refugees have annually sought professional help to deal with traumatic events.

Refugee health crisis?

The report stressed that refugees needed more resources to deal with such psychological traumas, calling adequate medical help a "humanitarian duty" for the government that needs to be regarded as on the same level as providing shelter and nourishment. However, AOK also underlined the fact that not all persons with psychological traumas needed to see a therapist.

Karl Lauterbach believes that the mental health of migrants is a neglected issue in Germany's public healthcare system | Credit: picture alliance/dpa

Karl Lauterbach, a health expert and the deputy chairman of the SPD-Parliamentary Group in the German Bundestag, said that the issue of mental health among migrants had thus far widely been "neglected and underestimated." Lauterbach told the Tagesspiegel daily newspaper that nevertheless the impact of migrants and refugees on Germany's public health system was low because their average age was low.

However, it remains unclear whether migrants living in Germany indeed have fewer health issues or whether they simply consult doctors less frequently. The German KNA news agency highlighted that the language barrier could be an important consideration when it comes to the frequency of their doctor's visits. KNA also underscored that there were more smokers among migrants.

 

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