Post-traumatic stress disorder is rare among persons of foreign origin

Publication date 22 Dec 2022

Post-traumatic stress disorder is relatively rare among persons with foreign background. According to a fresh statistical report from The Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare (THL), fewer than one percent (0.7%) of residents of Finland with a foreign background have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 2016–2020. However, prevalence varies according to gender and the person's country of origin.

The report examines the prevalence of PTSD diagnoses among persons of foreign origin in the population getting specialised health care in 2016–2020. The interpretation of the results is made more difficult by the lack of corresponding information on the general population.

Higher prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder among those coming from conflict areas

The prevalence of PTSD is highest among men who have come from the Middle East and North Africa. Among them, the prevalence is under three percent (2.7%).  Among women from the Middle East and North Africa just over two percent (2.4%) obtained a PTSD diagnosis. Also, women coming from Southern Europe, Africa (excl. North Africa) or countries of the Americas, Oceania, and the rest had higher-than average prevalence of PTSD.

As being diagnosed for post-traumatic stress disorder requires that the person has experienced an exceptionally threatening or catastrophic event, it is naturally more common for those coming from conflict areas to experience post-traumatic stress disorder more frequently than average. This is important to consider in the planning of services.

Some results might reflect delay in getting into treatment

PTSD was diagnosed more frequently among women than men. Only among those with Middle Eastern or North African background was PTSD diagnosed more often among men than women. International studies have also shown that PTSD symptoms develop among women more frequently than among men. Part of the reason for the differences might be that women and men tend to be exposed to different types of traumatic experiences.

There was a higher-than-average frequency for PTSD among young people and among those who have lived for a shorter time in the country. Nevertheless, the prevalence of PTSD among those coming from the Middle East and North Africa, for example, was the same, or higher among those who had lived in this country between five and ten years compared with those who had arrived less than five years ago. As the traumatic experiences in these groups are likely to have occurred in the country of origin, or during their escape from the country, the results might reflect a delay in getting treatment.

The prevalence of diagnoses reveals only the proportion of the population that has been given a diagnosis as part of specialised health care. The statistics do not include those who have symptoms but have not been diagnosed in specialised health care.

Further information

The prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among residents of foreign background in 2016–2020

Regina García Velázquez
Statistical Researcher
tel. +358 29 524 8356
[email protected]

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