Well-Being of Bosnian Refugees

Thursday, July 17, 2014: 11:30 AM
Room: Harbor Lounge A
Oral Presentation
Ajlina KARAMEHIC-MURATOVIC , Sociology and Anthropology, Saint Louis University, St Louis, MO
Wai Hsien CHEAH , Speech Communication, Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Edwardsville, IL
Hisako MATSUO , Sociology and Anthropology, Saint Louis University, St Louis
The estimated 70,000 Bosnian refugees in St. Louis suffered trauma, often including torture, during the 1992-1995 Bosnian war, with serious consequences for their well-being. The link between refugee status and poor mental health is well documented and many studies have addressed how post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is related to variables such as unemployment, welfare dependency, disability, social isolation and daily activity level.  This paper extends the past research by exploring the relationship among mental health and several other variables that have been shown to be important in the literature looking at refugee resettlement  and adaptation to a host country.  Specifically, this paper examines the relationship among psychological symptom dimensions (somatization, phobic anxiety, depression, anxiety and paranoia), self-esteem, host language competency, and ethnic and host culture identity.

The study used data (n=395) from a mental health needs assessment conducted to identify and quantify the needs of the Bosnian refugee community in St. Louis, MO, USA  To examine the relationship among the above variables, Pearson correlation analyses were run.  Results showed a significant negative relationship among all symptom dimensions and self-esteem and host language competency. No relationship was found, however, among the four symptom dimensions and ethnic and host culture identity. Results suggest that self-esteem and host language competency may play a particularly important role in refugees’ mental well-being.

 The results have implications for those interested in improving the well-being of refugees during their resettlement in a new homeland, mental health providers serving Bosnian and other refugee groups, and those who teach English as Second Language.