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Member Research and Reports

George Mason: Undocumented Latina Immigrants Face PTSD at Four Times the National Rate, New Study Finds

In recent years, Latinos from Central America have migrated to the United States due to violence, high crime rates, and poverty in their home countries. New research led by George Mason University College of Health and Human Services found that Latina immigrants meet the threshold for a post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) diagnosis at nearly four times (34 percent) the rate of civilian women in America as a whole (9.7 percent). Longer stays in the United States did not reduce PTSD symptoms.

Associate professors Drs. Carol Cleaveland and Cara Frankenfeld led the study, which was published in the Journal of Social Service Research in April.

The researchers conducted in-depth interviews with 62 Latina immigrants at two Mason and Partner (MAP) clinics operated and staffed by George Mason University faculty and students that serve the uninsured and other underserved populations. They used two validated instruments to assess PTSD and trauma: the civilian version of the PTSD checklist and a trauma history questionnaire.

“After risking their lives to come to the United States, these women have few resources and are still under the stress of potential arrest and deportation,” explains Dr. Cleaveland. “Moreover, they have to live in isolation from their family members in their countries of origin. All these factors make it much harder to recover from the previous experiences that caused their PTSD.”

Further study is suggested on PTSD in undocumented Latina immigrants and how to link them to mental health services, determine the effects of smuggling violence, and evaluate the additive effects of multiple traumas.

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