Risk of psychopathology following traumatic events among immigrants and native-born persons in Denmark

Meghan L. Smith, Vijaya L. Seegulam, Péter Szentkúti, Erzsébet Horváth-Puhó, Sandro Galea, Timothy Lash, Anthony J Rosellini, Paula P. Schnurr, Henrik Toft Sørensen, Jaimie Gradus*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journal/Conference contribution in journal/Contribution to newspaperJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Purpose: Immigrants may have increased risk of mental disorders compared with native-born persons. We aimed to expand the limited research on immigrants’ posttraumatic psychopathology related to traumatic experiences in their country of resettlement. Methods: We obtained data from a cohort of Danish residents with ≥ 1 traumatic event recorded in health and administrative national registries during 1994–2016. We calculated risks of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and substance use disorders (SUD) within 5 years post-trauma among native-born Danes and immigrants who had been in Denmark for ≥ 10 years at the time of their index trauma (including immigrants overall and immigrants from specific regions). Risks were compared via age- and sex-standardized risk ratios (SRR) with 95% confidence intervals (CI). We restricted to persons with no record of the disorder under investigation in the 10 years pre-trauma, and stratified by non-interpersonal (e.g., transport accidents) versus interpersonal trauma (e.g., assaults). Results: Following non-interpersonal trauma, immigrants were more likely than native-born Danes to be diagnosed with PTSD (SRR = 5.2, 95% CI 4.6, 5.9), about as likely to be diagnosed with depression (SRR = 0.98, 95% CI 0.92, 1.1), and less likely to be diagnosed with SUD (SRR = 0.89, 95% CI 0.82, 0.95). Results were similar following interpersonal trauma, except the SRR for PTSD was reduced in magnitude (SRR = 3.0, 95% CI 1.7, 5.4). There were differences by region of birth. Conclusion: Immigrants to Denmark have higher risk of PTSD following traumatic experiences than do native-born Danes, possibly due to the combined influence of adverse pre-, peri-, and/or post-migration experiences.

Original languageEnglish
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Pages (from-to)1305-1316
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2023


  • Denmark
  • Mental health
  • Migration
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Trauma
  • Denmark/epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic/epidemiology
  • Psychopathology
  • Substance-Related Disorders/epidemiology
  • Emigrants and Immigrants


Dive into the research topics of 'Risk of psychopathology following traumatic events among immigrants and native-born persons in Denmark'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this