Displaced Populations

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Author: Jaina Amin
Editors: Sana Loue and Martha Sajatovic
Date: 2012
Encyclopedia of Immigrant Health
Publisher: Springer
Document Type: Topic overview
Pages: 2
Content Level: (Level 5)

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Displaced Populations

Department of Psychiatry, University Hospitals Case Medical Center, Cleveland, OH, USA


The displacement of a group of people can have many long-standing effects. Various forms of population displacement include voluntary forms, i.e., immigration, or involuntary forms, i.e., gentrification of neighborhoods or by the forces of mother nature or political unrest.

While immigrants may choose to leave their countries of origin under seemingly voluntary conditions, they are still leaving behind their homelands and families to move to another country. Thus, when they move and do not have any social support in the new country they have a harder time adjusting. They may suffer from depressive symptoms related to the change in their environment and their living situation, and lack of social support in the new country.

Gentrification of neighborhoods has been thought of a way to revitalize an impoverished area by bringing in a more affluent population. Housing costs increase thus bringing in a more affluent class that can afford these increased prices, and this forces out the lower economic individuals, effectively displacing them because they cannot pay the rent. As more affluent individuals move into the area, more services to cater to the affluent lifestyle move into the area, furthering the displacement of the lower economic individuals. Not all of these displacements are voluntary or friendly. Atkinson notes that 1 in 10 tenants are harassed each year to leave their homes, and 2% of the evicted reported that “other ways” of persuasion were used. These methods of persuasion can lead to emotional symptoms of anger, anxiety, or even posttraumatic stress disorder in severe cases; also there is the emotional component of leaving a home that may have been in a family for generations.

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Refugees have similar stories in that they may be leaving behind a home country, city, or village that generations of their families have lived in. Refugees flee their countries to save their lives. They run from war and persecution, often losing beloved family members along the way. People who are displaced within their own country are called internally displaced persons. Not only are they experiencing the loss of their home, either through natural disaster or wars, but they have the added stress of the traumas they encounter before and during the displacement. Math and colleagues found that there was higher psychiatric morbidity in individuals displaced from their countries at 5.2% in comparison to the non-displaced individuals who had psychiatric morbidity of 2.8%. They found that in both the displaced and non-displaced individuals, there was an even distribution of depression and PTSD symptoms. However, interestingly they noted that in the displaced population there was more frequent panic disorder, anxiety disorder, and somatic disorders. Math et al. also found that women were more likely to experience problems with mental health problems after experiencing the tsunami. The World Health Organization noted that in times of war, women and children tend to become victims of exploitation.

It is important to consider the adjustment when dealing with a person who has been displaced from their country of origin. Assessing if that individual expresses feelings of being welcomed in the new culture will support these individuals acclimating with the dominant culture without problems. Individuals who feel isolated will have a harder time trusting people, feeling comfortable; all of these factors can lead to potential increase in emotional distress.

Suggested Readings

Lamb, J., Levy, M., & Reich, M. R. (2004). Displaced populations. In Hammand, A. E. B., Fiechter-Widemann, E., Serageldin, I., Leaning, J., Fan, L., Mani, R., Diwany, R., Elworth, S., & Gastaut, T. (Eds. Committee), Wounds of war (p. 24). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Suggested Resources

Atkinson, R. (2002). Does gentrification help or harm urban neighborhoods? An assessment of the evidence-base in the context of the new urban agenda. Retrieved March 12, 2010, from ESRC website. http://www.neighbourhoodcentre.org.uk/research/research.html

Atkinson, R. Displacement through gentrification: How big a problem? Retrieved March 15, 2010, from Radical Statistics website. http://www.radstats.org.uk/no069/article2.htm

Briney, A. (2009). Gentrification the controversial topic of gentrification and its impact on the urban core. Retrieved March 12, 2010, from About.com http://geography.about.com/od/urbaneconomicgeography/a/gentrification.htm

Levy, D. K. (2006). Community-level effects of displacement. Retrieved March 12, 2010, from Urban Institute website.http://www.urban.org/publications/900936.html

Resettling refugees in America. Retrieved March 12, 2010, from USCRI website. http://www.refugees.org/article.aspx?id=1092&rid=1176&subm=40&area=About%20Re

World Health Organization. Mental health of refugees, internally displaced persons and other populations affected by conflict. http://www.who.int/hac/techguidance/pht/mental_health_refugees/en/print.html

Disclaimer:   This information is not a tool for self-diagnosis or a substitute for professional care.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|CX3707500178