High rates of anxiety and depression among undocumented migrants in Sweden

According to a recent study, seven out of ten undocumented migrants in Sweden suffer from depression and anxiety. The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Gothenburg between 2014 and 2016, asked participants about their life in Sweden and if they experienced any symptoms of anxiety, depression or Post Traumatic Syndrome Disorder (PTSD).

The researchers interviewed 88 adult men and women living without legal residency in the Swedish cities of Stockholm, Gothenburg and Malmö. 

The study concludes that the migrants between the age of 25-39 years were more disposed to anxiety than the younger migrants, whereas those over 40 were more depressed. Almost 60% of respondents experienced PTSD. 

In a press release, Lena Andersson, one of the researchers of the study, said: “Undocumented migrants are a very vulnerable group, and the incidence of stress-related illness is high. Many participants reported that they would never have been able to manage if it hadn’t been for the help of churches and other social supports.”

In addition to the stress caused by their undocumented status, many migrants also continue to face traumas from their experience of war and persecution in their home countries.

Respondents who took part in the survey lacked residence permits in Sweden for several reasons. Their asylum applications had been denied, they were there on expired visas or they had never applied for a visa in the first place. One third said they had been undocumented for more than two years.

Undocumented migrants whose asylum claims have been rejected may choose to stay in Sweden. After four years they are eligible to apply for asylum again. However, many still face the threat of deportation during this time. 

More than 160,000 asylum seekers arrived in Sweden in 2015. Following this, Sweden enacted tighter migration laws to deter irregular migrants. Sweden has, for example, recently introduced temporary (as opposed to permanent) residence permits and also canceled protection on some humanitarian grounds.