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Int J Cult Ment Health. 2015 Jul 1;8(3):274-288. Epub 2015 May 12.

Correlates and Predictors of Psychological Distress among Afghan Refugees in San Diego County.

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Loma Linda University, Social Work & Social Ecology, 1898 Business Ctr. Dr., San Bernardino, 92408 United States.
Loma Linda University, Social Work & Social Ecology, San Bernardino, United States.
University of California Los Angeles, Nursing, Los Angeles, United States.


The psychological effects of war and resulting displacement continue to negatively impact Afghan refugees. The purpose of this study was to investigate factors that are associated with and predict psychological distress symptoms among Afghan refugees. We analyzed data from a diverse sample of 130 Afghan refugees recruited through non-random sampling in the San Diego area. Participants completed self-report questionnaires consisting of a culturally validated measure of psychological distress, the Afghan Symptom Checklist [ASCL] alongside standardized measures of acculturation, social support, and perceived stress. In bivariate analyses, older age, older age at migration, female gender, being widowed, having lower education, being unemployed, unable to comfortably pay monthly bills, lower acculturation and social support, and higher levels of perceived stress were associated with psychological distress. However, only few variables - female gender, being widowed, unable to comfortably pay monthly bills, and perceived stress - remained significant in multivariate analysis. The findings from this study contribute to understanding the social determinants of distress that affect Afghans in exile even after long-term resettlement in the US. These reported outcomes support the need for continued research with Afghans, alongside the implementation of culturally relevant psychosocial interventions that emphasize prevention of post-resettlement stressors immediately upon resettlement.


Afghan; acculturation; psychological distress; refugee; social support

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