Torture, War Trauma, and Mental Health Symptoms of Newly Arrived Karen Refugees

Patricia J. Shannon, Gregory A. Vinson, Elizabeth Wieling, Tonya Cook, James Letts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


This article documents frequencies of torture, war trauma, and associations with mental health distress reported by Karen refugees during their initial public health screening in the United States. A total of 179 Karen refugees completed a demographic questionnaire and 25-item mental health screening tool scored on a 4-point Likert scale. Frequencies of primary and secondary torture were 27.4% and 51.4%, respectively. War trauma was reported by 86% of the participants. Torture, older age, and female gender were significantly associated with increased total distress, posttraumatic stress, depression, and somatic complaints. Recommendations are reviewed for discussing mental health symptoms with Karen refugees.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)577-590
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Loss and Trauma
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2 2015


  • Karen refugees
  • mental health screening
  • refugee mental health
  • torture
  • war trauma


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