The Impact of an Insecure Asylum Status on Mental Health of Adult Refugees in Germany


  • Victoria Sophie Boettcher Orcid
  • Frank Neuner Orcid


Background: Forcibly displaced people have a higher chance of developing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) compared to people who have not experienced displacement. In addition to potentially traumatic events due to war, persecution, and flight, post-migration living stressors are an important influencing factor. Among these, an insecure asylum status is one of the main stressors with which forcibly displaced people must cope. The aim of this study was to investigate the additive effect of an insecure asylum status on PTSD symptomatology in refugees, over and above the influence of other pre- and peri-migration factors, in particular potentially traumatic event types reported and duration of stay in Germany. Method: Two overlapping convenience samples of 177 and 65 adult refugees that were assessed at different timepoints were interviewed by means of face-to-face interviews. Interviews were conducted in either Arabic, Farsi, Kurmancî, English, or German with the assistance of interpreters where necessary. Besides residence status and potentially traumatic events experienced, mental distress was assessed via the Refugee Health Screener-15 (RHS-15; Study A) and the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5 (PCL-5; Study B). Results: In both samples, an insecure asylum status explained a significant additional amount of variance of PTSD symptomatology, on top of traumatic events experienced and time since arrival in Germany. Conclusion: Results suggest that refugees with an insecure asylum status are at higher risk for experiencing increased PTSD symptomatology. Policy changes of asylum procedure in receiving countries could have a positive impact on refugees’ mental health.