Course and predictors of posttraumatic stress and depression longitudinal symptom profiles in refugees: A latent transition model

Journal of Psychiatric Research

Lonneke I.M. Lenferink, Belinda J. Liddell, Yulisha Byrow, Meaghan O’Donnell, Richard A. Bryant, Vicki Mau, Tadgh McMahon, Greg Benson, Angela Nickerson


Exposure to potentially traumatic events and post-migration living difficulties (PMLDs) may explain the high rates of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression in resettled refugees. Latent class analyses (LCAs) in refugees have identified subgroups that differ in symptom profiles of PTSD and comorbid symptoms. However, knowledge on longitudinal symptom profiles in refugees is sparse. Examining longitudinal PTSD and depression symptom profiles could provide information on risk factors underlying worsening of symptoms post-resettlement. Self-rated PTSD (Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale) and depression (Patient Health Questionnaire–9) symptoms were assessed among 613 refugees who had resettled in Australia up to two years previously (W1) and at 6 months follow-up (W2). PTSD and depression symptom profiles were identified using LCAs for W1 and W2 separately. Latent transition analysis was used to examine (predictors of) changes in symptom profiles, including gender, age, trauma exposure, and PMLDs. Four classes were identified that were consistent across timepoints: a No symptoms (W1 61%; W2 68%), Low PTSD/Moderate depression (W1 16%; W2 10%), Moderate PTSD/depression (W1 16%; W2 14%), and High symptoms class (W1 7%; W2 7%). Higher levels of problems with PMLDs, including being discrimination and family separation, predicted movements out of the No symptom class at W1 to classes with psychopathology at W2. To conclude, most participants did not develop PTSD or depression symptoms. The risk of developing these symptoms seems higher when problems with interpersonal PMLDs increased, pointing to the need for considering these stressors when addressing the mental health needs in this population.

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