New Research: High Levels of Anxiety Found Among Syrian Refugee Children

New Research: High Levels of Anxiety Found Among Syrian Refugee Children

SAN DIEGO, May 20, 2017 – The Syria Civil War has exposed millions of civilians to extreme physical and emotional trauma. Anxiety is common among Syrian refugee children, affecting more than four in five children, according to research presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in San Diego.

The research was led by Arash Javanbakht, M.D., director of the Stress, Trauma, and Anxiety Research Clinic in Wayne State University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience. A bilingual team of researchers recruited participants (age 6-80) at primary care clinics in Southeastern Michigan where refugees receive health assessments within the first month following arrival in the U.S. They screened adults for PTSD and children for anxiety.

They analyzed information from 59 children, an average age of just over 11 years old, from 20 families. Based on the screening, 61 percent of children had probable anxiety diagnosis and 85 percent had probable separation anxiety diagnosis. PTSD symptoms were common among all adults and more common among mothers than fathers. A higher total anxiety score among children was associated with higher PTSD score among mothers. Children with probable separation anxiety were more likely to be younger.

The high prevalence of anxiety suggests that interventions are acutely needed for refugee children from Syria, according to Arfken and colleagues.

This research is part of a larger study of Syrian refugees that will examine unique cultural factors within this population and look at potential biological markers of trauma.

Arash Javanbakht, M.D., is an assistant professor and director of the Stress, Trauma, and Anxiety Research Clinic in Wayne State University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience. Cynthia L. Arfken, Ph.D., is a professor and epidemiologist in Wayne State University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience. Her research focuses on mental health services and substance abuse trends. Luay Haddad ,M.D., is clinical assistant professor at Wayne State University and Chief of Psychiatry at Detroit Receiving Hospital, medical director of the Arab-American and Chaldean Community (ACC) Mental Health Program. Zeina Alobaidi, M.D., was born and raised in Baghdad where she finished medical school and did residency training in community and preventive medicine before moving to the United States as a refugee. Zainab Rawi, B.D.S., graduated in 2006 from the University of Baghdad Dentistry College and has worked as a dentist, dental assistant and research assistant. Farah Alani, B.D.S., earned a Bachelor of Dental Surgery (BDS) from the University of Baghdad College of Dentistry in 2008 and moved to the United States as a refugee less than a year later. Christopher J. Trentacosta, Ph.D., is an associate professor in Wayne State University Department of Psychology. David R. Rosenberg, M.D., is the Miriam L. Hamburger Endowed Chair of Child Psychiatry, chair, and professor in the Wayne State University Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience.

American Psychiatric Association

The American Psychiatric Association is the oldest medical association in the country founded in 1844. The APA is also the largest psychiatric association in the world with more than 37,000 physician members specializing in the diagnosis, treatment, prevention and research of mental illnesses. APA’s vision is to ensure access to quality psychiatric diagnosis and treatment.

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