Objectives The aim of the present study is to determine how marital status and certain post-migration family structures are associated with the risk of mental illness among recently arrived Arabic- speaking refugees in Sweden. Methods A cross-sectional study was conducted during 2015 and 2016. The study population was recruited by inviting all adult refugees who participated in the mandatory public integration support programme. All refugees that participated had received refugee status. A total of 681 of the invited participants returned the GHQ-12 questionnaires, through which the risk for mental illness was measured and only Arabic- speaking refugees (N = 638) were included in the analyses. Results Marital status per se was not associated with a risk for mental illness. However, for the whole study sample there was a statistical significant odds ratio of 1.72 (95% CI 1.03-2.86). For male Arabic-speaking refugees with a spouse or child left behind in the home country there was a borderline significant increased risk for mental illness, odds ratio = 1. 87 (95% CI 0.99-3.56). The risk for female Arabic-speaking refugees was non-significant, odds ratio = 1.35 (95% CI 0.55-3.33). Conclusions Arabic- speaking refugees who were separated from family members reported an increased risk for mental illness after arriving in the host country. Actions to facilitate family reunion after arriving as a refugee (in Sweden) seems to be an important factor to promote mental health among refugees.