Objective: The traditionally homogenous Norwegian population is increasingly becoming a multiethnic society, especially so in Oslo where immigrants make up 20% of the total population. Although we know immigrants have a higher incidence of mental distress they seem to be underrepresented in the health services offered. There is a lack of data on the mental health status of these groups, and in this study we look at the mental health status in five different nationality groups living in Oslo and especially on pre- and post migration factors and their associations with mental distress.
Method: Oslo Health Study, a cross-sectional survey with self-administered questionnaires was conducted among immigrants from Turkey, Iran, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Vietnam living in Oslo in 2002.The Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL-10) was used to measure psychological distress.Data on sociodemographic characteristics, experience of traumatic life events and integration in Norwegian society were collected.
Results: Major differences in prevalence of psychological distress were found between the different national groups of immigrants. Turkish immigrants reported the highest and Sri-Lankan the lowest prevalence of distress. Experience of torture is the pre-immigration factor having association with distress in all groups, whereas war and imprisonment are not significantly correlated.Employment is the post-immigration factor associated with distress in all five groups. Knowledge of Norwegian language did not have a significant association with mental distress in most groups.
Conclusion: The findings of this study show great differences in psychological distress score between the various national groups. Psychological distress is not associated with the same factors in all national groups. Differences in levels and prevalence of distress cannot be attributed to traumatic life events and post-immigration factors solely, but require further research.