Mentally ill new immigrants: Social and clinical aspects

I. Reznik, R. Benatov, P. Sirota

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The purpose of our study was to assess social and clinical characteristics of mentally ill new immigrants in comparison to non-immigrant psychiatric patients. Method and Subject: One hundred in-patients (over age 20) at Y. Abarbanel Mental Health Center, Bat Yam, Israel, participated in the study. Fifty were new immigrants and 50 were native Israelis, hospitalized in the same wards, matched by age (mean±SD: 43.3±12.3), gender, marital status and number of children. All new immigrants were former Soviet residents, who had arrived in Israel within the last five years, while the natives were defined as born in Israel or immigrants residing in Israel for more than 10 years. They were interviewed using a 42 item questionnaire. The relevant clinical information was extracted from the patient's medical charts. Statistical analysis was based on two-tailed Pearson Chi-Square test with appropriate corrections, when comparing, proportional distributions, and student-test for comparison of means. Results: Despite a higher level of psychosocial stress (54% vs. 36%) new immigrants were more satisfied with their income (50% vs. 25%), and their family relationships improved in contrast to natives (32.4% vs. 4%). The clinical and psychopathological characteristics of new immigrants disclosed a better course of their mental disorders: shorter duration of hospitalization (47.2% vs. 23.4%), more stable remissions (32.5% vs. 12.5%), improved and preserved functioning (61 % vs. 28%). They expressed more self-confidence and positive attitude toward psychiatric services. They were also more motivated to continue their treatment (84% vs. 64%) and had more optimistic views of the future. Most of the data was statistically significant. Conclusions: The findings indicate that despite their increased vulnerability, new immigrant mentally ill patients respond well to the very stressful situation of immigration. Most of them improved their social characteristics and mental status. Further studies, based on larger samples of patient populations using valid and reliable standard instruments are needed to elucidate and confirm the present findings.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)315
Number of pages1
JournalIsrael Journal of Psychiatry and Related Sciences
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1997
Externally publishedYes


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