Pre- and Post-displacement Stressors and Body Weight Development in Iraqi Refugees in Michigan

K.-L. Catherine Jen and Kequan Zhou. J Immigr Minor Health. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2016 Oct 1.

Refugees have typically experienced stress and trauma before entering the US. Stressors and mental health disorders may contribute to obesity. The aim of this study was to investigate changes in the body mass index (BMI) in Iraqi refugees settled in Michigan in relationship to pre- and post-migration stressors and mental health. Anthropometric and demographic data were collected from 290 Iraqi refugees immediately after they arrived in Michigan and one year after settlement. Significant increases were observed in BMI (+0.46 ± 0.09 kg/m2, p < 0.0001) and the percentage of refugees suffering from hypertension (from 9.6 to 13.1 %, p < 0.05). Significant increases in stress, depression and acculturation, as well as decreases in post-migration trauma and social support, were also observed. Linear regression analyses failed to link stressors, well-being, and mental health to changes in BMI. It is likely that acculturation to a new lifestyle, including dietary patterns and physical activity levels, may have contributed to these changes.



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