The majority of Syrian refugee children are ill

More than a third of Syrian refugee children in Germany are suffering from a psychological disorder, and the vast majority has a physical disorder. These were the findings of a study carried out by medical scientists of the Technical University of Munich (TUM) at a Bavarian refugee reception center. The researchers believe that more children will develop a post-traumatic stress disorder not least because of their current situation. The study will be presented on September 5th at a public meeting of the annual conference of the German Society for Social Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine in Munich.

The group of medical scientists headed by Prof. Volker Mall , TUM Chair for Social Pediatrics, and Prof. Peter Henningsen , Director of the Department of Psychosomatic Medicine and Psychotherapy at the TUM hospital Klinikum rechts der Isar, examined around 100 Syrian children and adolescents drawn from a representative sample at the "Bayernkaserne" reception center in Munich. The adolescents were up to 14 years old.

The number of children and adolescents with stress disorders, emotional problems and physical disorders was unusually high. About 22 percent suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and 16 percent from adjustment disorder. Children with PTSD exhibit behavioral abnormalities and lack of concentration, for example at school. A PTSD can lead to sleep disorders and increased bed-wetting, too.

63 percent of the children and adolescents had tooth decay, 25 percent suffered from respiratory diseases, and 11 percent from infections or parasitic infestations. 42 percent lacked vaccinations. One in ten children needed acute care.

Most refugee children feel socially isolated in Germany

The researchers believe it is highly probable that more of the children examined will develop post-traumatic stress disorder. The experiences of war and flight are major risk factors for PTSD, although the children’s circumstances must also be taken into account. 60 percent of those examined had been fleeing for more than 10 months. "The duration of a trauma has a key influence on the severity of stress disorder," says Prof. Volker Mall.

Another major risk factor is persistent psychosocial stress such as an uncertain residency status, separation from relatives, violence and discrimination. Around 59 percent of children and adolescents at the refugee reception center feel socially isolated, and 25 percent experience discrimination. "A welcoming culture therefore has a preventative effect on the development of post-traumatic disorders," says Mall.

The social pediatrician warns: "The healthcare system and society as a whole are faced with new challenges that cannot be met without new care structures and without new funding and research resources."

The study, which was sponsored by the charitable organization "Kinder im Zentrum - Für Kinder" ("Children at the Center - for Children") will be presented at the annual conference of the German Society for Social Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine (DGSPJ), whose conference president is Professor Volker Mall. The conference is held as part of the annual conference of the German Society for Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine in Munich (DGKJ).

Annual conference of the German Society for Pediatrics and Adolescent
Saturday, September 5, 2015
1:30-3:30 p.m.
ICM - International Congress Center Munich
81823 Munich

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