Journal of Immigrant and Minority Health

, Volume 16, Issue 6, pp 1069–1076 | Cite as

The Prevalence of Torture and Associated Symptoms in United States Iraqi Refugees

  • Cynthia L. Willard
  • Mara Rabin
  • Martha Lawless
Original Paper


Iraqi refugees face difficulties resettling in the US, which may be partially due to high rates of torture. This study determines the rates of torture experience, primary and secondary, among Iraqi refugees in the US; and the association to physical and mental health symptoms on arrival. A retrospective review was conducted in 2011 on the post-arrival health screens of Iraqi refugees resettled in Utah in 2008 and 2009. Measures included reports of torture experience as defined by the United Nations; reports of physical and mental health symptoms at the time of screening; and association of torture to the presence of symptoms on arrival. The study included the health screens of 497 (97 %) of eligible Iraqi refugees. Most experienced torture (56 %) before arrival in the US Logistic regression revealed that torture was the most significant predictor of mental illness symptoms. Iraqi refugees in the US have a high prevalence of torture, and torture is associated with the presence of both mental and physical symptoms on the post-arrival health screen. This information is critical to the development of successful resettlement strategies for Iraqi refugees.


Iraqi Refugee Torture Trauma Refugee health screen Resettlement Mental health 



The authors wish to thank Gerrie Dowdle, MSPH, from the Utah Department of Health; Dr. Reid Robison from Intermountain Healthcare; and the Utah Department of Workforce Service’s Refugee Services Office for their assistance with this study. Financial Support was obtained from the Utah Department of Workforce Service’s Refugee Services Office. Contract #: 116263.

Conflict of interest

The authors do not report any conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Cynthia L. Willard
    • 1
    • 4
  • Mara Rabin
    • 2
  • Martha Lawless
    • 3
  1. 1.Community Health Alliance/ChapCare, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Keck School of MedicineUniversity of Southern CaliforniaLos AngelesUSA
  2. 2.Salt Lake Family Health Center, Utah Health & Human Rights ProjectUniversity of Utah School of MedicineSalt Lake CityUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Public Health ResearchUniversity of Connecticut Health CenterNew HavenUSA
  4. 4.ChapCare Health CentersPasadenaUSA

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