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PLoS One. 2016 Nov 30;11(11):e0166066. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0166066. eCollection 2016.

Hospital Admission and Criminality Associated with Substance Misuse in Young Refugees - A Swedish National Cohort Study.

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Centre for Health Equity Studies (CHESS), Karolinska Institutet/Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden.



High rates of mental health problems have been described in young refugees, but few studies have been conducted on substance misuse. This study aimed to investigate the patterns of hospital care and criminality associated with substance misuse in refugees who settled in Sweden as teenagers.


Gender stratified Cox regression models were used to estimate the risks of criminal convictions and hospital care associated with substance misuse from national Swedish data for 2005-2012. We focused on 22,992 accompanied and 5,686 unaccompanied refugees who were aged 13-19 years when they settled in Sweden and compared them with 1 million native Swedish youths from the same birth cohort.


The risks of criminal conviction associated with substance misuse increased with the length of residency in male refugees, after adjustment for age and domicile. The hazard ratios (HRs) were 5.21 (4.39-6.19) for unaccompanied and 3.85 (3.42-4.18) for accompanied refugees after more than 10 years of residency, compared with the native population. The risks were slightly lower for hospital care, at 2.88 (2.18-3.79) and 2.52(2.01-3.01) respectively. Risks were particularly pronounced for male refugees from the Horn of Africa and Iran. The risks for all male refugees decreased substantially when income was adjusted for. Young female refugees had similar risks to the general population.


The risks of criminality and hospital care associated with substance misuse in young male refugees increased with time of residency in Sweden and were associated with a low level of income compared with the native Swedish population. Risks were similar in accompanied and unaccompanied refugees.

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