Older refugees are more traumatised, depressed and poorer than younger refugees, but they are more likely to believe they have received adequate support in Australia, a James Cook University (JCU) researcher has found.
JCU’s Dr Wendy Li surveyed more than 100 refugees. Using standardised research questions, she found the 50-70-year-old group had suffered much more trauma than younger groups.
“Their scores on loss distress, interpersonal loss and loss of intrapersonal integrity were significantly higher than both the 18–34 and 35–49 groups,” said Dr Li.
“Although all participants had experienced traumas, older refugees appeared to have experienced more severe human rights abuses compared to younger participants,” she said.
Dr Li said they were not doing so well in other ways too.
“Anxiety and depression of participants aged between 50 and 70 was much higher than in younger age groups, nearly half are unemployed and nearly nine in ten of the older refugees earned below the AU$18,200 tax-free threshold.”
She said it was well established that refugees had a poorer socioeconomic status than non-refugee immigrants and the general population, but this was the first study in Australia to look at the status of the refugee population based on age.
Despite the poorer outcomes, Dr Li said older refugees tended to think they had received at least adequate community support in Australia.
Six in ten thought they had received sufficient support when compared to younger refugees: twice the figure for 18 to 34 year olds.
She said the older group was a mixture of refugees, with some having come to Australia as youngsters and grown old here, and some having arrived later in life.
“It may suggest that older refugees had longer periods to establish support systems and social networks, and were more likely to seek help than their younger counterparts,” said Dr Li.
She said older refugees had a particularly high prevalence of anxiety, depression and PTSD over Australia’s national average, and should be recognised as a group with special needs in the categories of both refugees and older adults.
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