Up to 40% of adults seeking asylum in Finland reported significant symptoms of depression and anxiety. More than half of both adults and children report having experienced at least one shocking, possibly traumatic event, as a victim of violence, before coming to Finland.
These are the conclusions of a recent survey on health and well-being of asylum seekers published by the Finnish National Institute for Health and Welfare (THL). The study is based on health checks and interviews made to over 1,000 asylum seekers.
“Those from sub-Saharan Africa had more symptoms of depression and anxiety than those from elsewhere, with over 60 percent. The same group had the most shocking events before entering Finland. For example, 67% of men from Africa report torture experiences and 57% of women with sexual violence", explained Anu Castaneda, Research Director at THL.
According to her, it is important to support mental health and functional capacity already at the reception stage. This can be done, for example, by promoting that asylum seekers have a meaningful everyday life, by providing information about mental health and by investing in the effective guidance. "Supporting the well-being of children and families is particularly important", she remarked.
Women at higher risk
The survey highlights that, in many respects, women's health is weaker than that of men. A higher proportion of women than men, 49 percent, reported having a long-term illness or a health problem, such as musculoskeletal disorders, diabetes, or respiratory diseases. One out of ten women was pregnant when coming to Finland.
On the other hand, men had more injuries caused by accidents and violence, as much as 55 percent. Men also smoke more often than women, up to 37 percent.
In many areas of health, the situation in the Middle East and especially in Africa was weaker than in other areas.
“It would be better to share health-related information with asylum seekers in an easily accessible and understandable form,” said Natalia Skogberg, Project Manager at THL .
According to the study, many other health components presented problems, for example they are common in oral health. Many of the minors who arrived in Finland had never visited a dentist before coming.
Use of alcohol and other intoxicants
Some of the results of the study are also positive. For example, 85% of adult asylum seekers said they did not use alcohol at all and the use of other drugs was rare. The symptoms of infectious diseases were also low.
“The results of the research are important, especially when we want to develop our activities to respond to to the health needs of asylum seekers,” explained Olli Snellman, Director of Income, at the Finnish Immigration Service. “Based on the results, we are updating and developing an initial health check-up model for asylum seekers that will be deployed in all reception centers around Finland”, he added.
Asylum seekers' health and well-being research (TERTTU) is by far the largest population survey on the health of asylum seekers at both national and international level. Its aim was to provide comprehensive information on the health and well-being of adults and minors who applied for asylum in 2018 in Finland.
The study was carried out by THL in cooperation with the Immigration Service Reception Unit and Reception Centers, supported by the EU Fund for Asylum, Immigration and Integration.