Thursday 18 July 2019

Mental health concerns for asylum seekers

Stress factor: on average asylum seekers pay twice as many visits to their GP compared to Irish citizens
Stress factor: on average asylum seekers pay twice as many visits to their GP compared to Irish citizens

Asylum seekers are five times more likely to be diagnosed with a psychiatric illness than Irish patients.

A new study also found the average number of visits they pay to a GP is twice that of patients from here.

Doctors examined the patterns among patients attending two GP practices in Galway over a year. They collected data on 171 asylum seekers and 342 Irish citizens.

Asylum seekers had a much higher chance of being diagnosed with anxiety. "Asylum seekers were prescribed more antibiotics and psychiatric medications," said Prof Andrew Murphy of NUI Galway.

But Irish patients had higher prescription rates for drugs to treat other conditions.

"Studies have shown a strong link between psychological illness and being a frequent attender in general practice," Prof Murphy said.

International studies show the health problems of asylum seekers are mostly related to infectious disease and stress-related disorders. "In Ireland, between January and July 2005 there were 2,541 applications for asylum, according to the Office For Refugee Applications,'" the study reported.

Most asylum seekers in the two practices were from Nigeria (43.9pc) followed by Romania (seven per cent), followed by Algeria (just over four per cent).

The Georgian, Congolese, Russian, Pakistani and Moroccan groups made up three per cent each. Others were from from Ghana, Somalia and Afghanistan.

Stress could be an exacerbating factor for many of their illnesses, such as gastritis, non-specific abdominal pain and generalised body aches.

This study shows that asylum seekers were almost twice as likely as Irish patients to be referred to hospital out-patient clinics in each consultation.

"Due to the implications of higher consultation rates of asylum seekers, it is appropriate that increased resources are made available to practices that provide this care.,Despite the higher prevalence of psychological distress in this patient group, Irish GPs cannot refer directly to public psychological services.Stress factor: on average asylum seekers pay twice as many visits to their GP compared to Irish citizens

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