Fewer Ukrainian refugees in Denmark show symptoms of post-traumatic stress

February 22, 2024

In particular, the new study shows that fewer refugees have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, or the more serious 'complex post-traumatic stress disorder', CPTSD. There is a substantial group of Ukrainian refugees who have not recovered or have even gotten worse. There is a substantial group of Ukrainian refugees who have not recovered or have even gotten worse," says Karen-Inge Karstoft. Figure: Ukrainian refugees' three most significant problems in everyday life (per cent)The proportion of Ukrainian refugees who state that the three statements represent 'a serious problem', 'a major problem' or 'somewhat of a problem' in their everyday life. Download the report 'Displaced Ukrainians in Denmark II'Meet the research group behind the surveySee and hear more about the DARECO project, which follows Ukrainian refugees in Denmark.

Two years after the Russian invasion, just over 41,000 Ukrainians have been granted residence in Denmark. Now, a new report by researchers at the Department of Psychology paints an updated picture of the well-being of Ukrainian refugees and the problems and concerns they experience on a daily basis.

About the survey

The report 'Displaced Ukrainians in Denmark II' describes the results of the second of two questionnaire surveys conducted as part of the project DARECO (The Danish Refugee Cohort), funded by the Carlsberg Foundation and carried out in collaboration with DIGNITY - Danish Institute Against Torture. The project is led by Associate Professor Karen-Inge Karstoft, Department of Psychology.

The report is based on a questionnaire survey of the 18,389 adult Ukrainians who immigrated to Denmark between 24 February 2022 and 1 February 2023 and were granted residence under the special law on temporary residence permits for displaced persons from Ukraine. Data from the second survey were collected from October 2023 to the beginning of 2024. 3,975 people responded to both surveys.

The study provides a picture of the Ukrainians' experiences and conditions before they fled, their life here in Denmark and their wishes to stay or return home. In particular, the report focuses on symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), challenges and barriers in everyday life, trust and social networks, and wishes for the future.

The next data collection is expected to start in October 2024.

The report, which is based on a questionnaire survey of adult Ukrainian refugees, follows up on a similar analysis from September 2023. In the report, the researchers conclude that resident Ukrainian refugees generally seem to be doing slightly better.

In particular, the new study shows that fewer refugees have symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, or the more serious 'complex post-traumatic stress disorder', CPTSD. While 29.4 per cent of refugees previously experienced symptoms of PTSD or CPTSD, this is now reduced to 24.4 per cent.

"The study shows that as a whole, the group of Ukrainian refugees are generally doing well and actually even more so than when we first studied them. Fewer have symptoms of PTSD, fewer seem to be unhappy in Denmark and many want to stay," says Associate Professor Karen-Inge Karstoft from the Department of Psychology at UCPH.

She is leading the project 'DARECO - The Danish Refugee Cohort', which, with support from the Carlsberg Foundation and in collaboration with DIGNITY, is following almost 7,000 of the approximately 18,000 adult Ukrainians who were granted residence in Denmark from end of February 2022 and until about a year later. With the current second data collection, it is possible to study how the life and well-being of Ukrainians in Denmark develop over time.

Of the almost 7,000 people who took part in the first survey, just under 4,000 have taken part again, and the new report shows other significant trends:

No less than 60.4 per cent want to stay in Denmark even when the war is no longer a threat to their home town. In the first survey, the corresponding number was 49.5 per cent. At the same time, the refugees' already high level of trust in the Danish authorities has increased – albeit only by a small number. A full 93.9 per cent now say they have a high or very high level of trust in official Denmark.

A minority of people face major mental health challenges

However, the picture is not all positive. Although the proportion of refugees with symptoms of PTSD has fallen significantly, the proportion with symptoms of CPTSD is almost unchanged. 13.5 per cent compared to 12.6 per cent in the first survey.

There is a substantial group of Ukrainian refugees who have not recovered or have even gotten worse.

Associate Professor Karen-Inge Karstoft, Department of Psychology

Both PTSD and CPTSD are reactions to traumatic experiences, such as war. However, in addition to low mental wellbeing, people with complex PTSD typically find it difficult to engage in human relationships and to manage their emotional reactions. Many also develop negative self-perceptions. The group therefore has significantly more social and well-being problems.

"Some of those who have symptoms of ordinary PTSD will get better when they settle in Denmark. Symptoms of CPTSD are more chronic and harder to treat, and it is worth considering if there should be more services to help this group. There is a substantial group of Ukrainian refugees who have not recovered or have even gotten worse," says Karen-Inge Karstoft.

The typical everyday problems

But even for the vast majority, life as a refugee is not without its challenges.

Since the first survey, the proportion of people experiencing different types of problems has generally fallen slightly, but worries about family in Ukraine remain a serious or major problem for many (see graph). This is not without reason. Some 44 per cent say they have lost family members or other close relatives as a result of the war.

Figure: Ukrainian refugees' three most significant problems in everyday life (per cent)

The proportion of Ukrainian refugees who state that the three statements represent 'a serious problem', 'a major problem' or 'somewhat of a problem' in their everyday life. The same three challenges were also top 3 in the previous survey.

In addition, the fear of being sent home has increased since the last survey and is now perceived as a major or very major problem by about a third, compared to a quarter previously.

The Ukrainian refugees are in Denmark with a temporary residence permit until March 2025. This in itself can create uncertainty about the future. But concerns about the war in Ukraine and a stronger connection to Denmark can also increase the desire to stay in Denmark and the fear of repatriation, says Karen-Inge Karstoft.

"Some have been here for a long time and may have established a daily routine with work and a social network. This makes it easier to imagine staying here. That is the positive explanation. The negative is that as a refugee you look at the way the war is developing and you feel more hopeless about being able to return home. "

Download the report 'Displaced Ukrainians in Denmark II'

Meet the research group behind the survey

See and hear more about the DARECO project, which follows Ukrainian refugees in Denmark. The video is produced by Jes Brix Lauridsen, Brixter.

Your web browser does not support iframes, which means that the video Introfilm om Ukraine-projekt (DK/UK) cannot play.

The source of this news is from University of Copenhagen

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