The mental health effects of visa insecurity for refugees and people seeking asylum: a latent class analysis

Elizabeth A. Newnham, April Pearman, Stephanie Olinga-Shannon, Angela Nickerson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

1 Citation (Scopus)


Objectives: Current regional conflicts are creating a surge in forced migration, and heightened visa restrictions are increasingly being applied. The current study aimed to examine the relationship between visa insecurity and psychological outcomes within a large clinical sample of refugees and people seeking asylum in Australia. Methods: The sample comprised 781 clients (53.9% male, 16–93 years) attending a clinic for trauma survivors. Country of birth was most frequently identified as Afghanistan (18.1%), Iraq (15.3%) and Iran (15.1%). The Hopkins Symptom Checklist was administered at admission. Results: Latent class analyses identified four groups varying in severity of symptoms, namely very high (16.1%), high (38.1%), moderate (31.5%), and low (14.3%). People with insecure visa status were at least five times more likely to report high (OR = 5.86, p < 0.001) or very high (OR = 5.27, p < 0.01) depression and anxiety symptoms than those with permanent residency. Women were almost twice as likely to report high (OR = 1.96 p < 0.01) or very high (OR = 1.96, p < 0.05) symptoms. Conclusions: The findings suggest that temporary visas play a significant role in psychological distress and that timely immigration processing has important implications for health outcomes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)763-772
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Public Health
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2019


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