Purpose To describe war-related trauma history, immigration factors, problems, and coping of Somali and Oromo refugee youth. Methods Analysis of a subset of participants (N = 338) aged 18-25 years from a population-based survey of Somali and Oromo refugees conducted in 2000-2002. Data included trauma history, life situation, and scales for physical (Cronbach α = .69), psychological (α = .56), and social problems (α = .69). Data were analyzed using Chi-square and Mann-Whitney U tests. Results Average emigration age was 14.8 years, with 4.2 years in transit and 2.0 years in the United States; 60% reported plans to return home to live. Two-thirds (66%) had less than a high school education, 49% had English language problems, 49% were employed (38% female vs. 57% male); 70% were single, with Somali females more likely than Oromo to be partnered and mothers (39% vs. 19%). There were significant ethnicity/gender differences for all problem scales. More females reported feeling alone (24% vs. 61%, p < .001). Youth with symptoms of posttraumatic stress syndrome reported more traumatic events (mean number of events: 28 vs.16). Trauma history was strongly associated with physical, psychological, and social problems. Most frequent strategies to combat sadness were praying (55.3%), sleeping (39.9%), reading (32.3%), and talking to friends (27.8%). Conclusions Many young Somali and Oromo immigrants to the United States experience life problems associated with war trauma and torture, but many others are coping well. The findings suggest a need to develop age-appropriate strategies to promote the health of refugee youth to facilitate their successful adaptation to adult life in the United States.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Research was supported by the National Institutes of Health (5RO1-MH59579 and 1RO1-MH59570). This analysis was supported in part by the Maternal Child Health Bureau Health Resources and Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services (MCJ 279185).
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- Gender differences
- Mental health