Online proceedings for the IRCT General Assembly and 10th International Scientific Symposium - Delivering on the Promise of the Right to Rehabilitation

Time: 11:00 to 11:20 Download Presentation

Torture survivors resettled in Denmark: Evidence for greater multiplicity of problems and higher symptom load compared with other patient groups

Presenter(s) and co-author(s): Dr. Uwe Harlacher ( Nunca Mas & Medecins Sans Frontieres - Denmark ), Prof. Peter Polatin ( George Washington University - United States of America )


Due to a lack of systematically collected data it has been difficult to describe the multiplicity of problems and symptom load of torture survivors resettled in Denmark. Recently empirical data, mainly collected at RCT (Rehabilitation and Research Centre for Torture Victims), have become available allowing for comparisons with other patient groups.


Data regarding anxiety and depression (measured by the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale -- HAD) and pain-related motor dysfunction (measured by the Disability Rating Index -- DRI) from torture survivors before entering the RCT rehabilitation program have been collected between 2006 and 2011. The results have been compared with large samples of Scandinavian pain-patients before entering pain-rehabilitation and DRI-norm- scores. At another Danish refugee rehabilitation center, Health of Nations Outcome Scores (HONOS) before rehabilitation have been compared with according data for psychiatric in-patients; in order to correct for bias, these data have partly been re-analyzed.


The HAD and DRI results indicate that the RCT clients have higher symptom scores than nearly all comparison groups. The disability scores are comparable to patients with severe arthritis awaiting implant surgery (artificial knees/hips); only wheel chair bound multiple sclerosis patients show higher scores. Regarding HONOS- scores the refugee clients show higher total scores than any psychiatric inpatient-comparison group, patients with dementia being least and anxiety patients most dislike the refugee clients. It is concluded that torture survivors in Denmark have a comparatively extreme multiplicity and degree of symptoms. One implication of the findings is that the right for rehabilitation cannot be satisfied by the provision of a minimal treatment (a Danish study illustrating negative outcome of such a minimal intervention is presented) but that a multidisciplinary and relative comprehensive approach is necessary.

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