Political Violence Has Lasting Effect

Published Online: Saturday, November 1, 2003

    Political violence takes its toll on an individual?s mental and emotional well-being. A study of Latino immigrants living in Los Angeles found that those who experienced political violence in their home countries were 2 to 4 times more apt to suffer from physical or mental health problems, compared with other immigrants. These findings were published in the August 6, 2003, issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

    The researchers randomly selected 638 adult Latino immigrants from 3 different primary care clinics in Los Angeles. The study participants were interviewed to evaluate the types of political violence they had suffered in the past and the current state of their physical and mental health. Of the 638 participants, 54% said that they had had exposure to political violence, and 8% said that they had been victims of torture. The researchers also learned that 15% had witnessed violence against a family member; 27% reported having had a family member disappear; 26% had witnessed mass violence; and 32% said that bombs or attacks with heavy weapons had endangered their lives.

    As for their mental state, the researchers found that 36% of the participants who had lived through political violence suffered from depression, compared with 20% who had not. Eighteen percent of political violence survivors had symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, compared with 8% of those who had not experienced such violence, said the study authors.

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