Prevalence and associated factors of common mental disorders among Ethiopian migrant returnees from the Middle East and South Africa



Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date


Publication Title

BMC Psychiatry






Common mental disorders, Ethiopia, Middle East countries, Migrant returnees, Migration, Prevalence, South Africa


Background: Ethiopian migrants to the Middle East and South Africa experience a range of problems at various stages of their migration including overwork, sleep deprivation, denial of food, emotional abuse, difficulty adapting to the host culture, salary denial, sexual abuse, labor exploitation, confiscation of their travel documents, confinement, denial of medication, lack of access to legal service and degrading attitude by employers, traffickers and smugglers. These experiences can be associated with different types of mental disorders. This study sought to determine the prevalence of common mental disorders (CMD) and socio-demographic and other migration related associated factors among Ethiopian migrant returnees from the Middle East and South Africa. Method: A cross-sectional study was conducted using non-probability (i.e. purposive, availability and snowball) sampling techniques. Migrant returnees (n=1036) were contacted individually at their homes in eight high prevalent immigrant returnee locations in Ethiopia. Common mental disorders were assessed using the self-reporting questionnaire (SRQ-20) and a structured questionnaire was employed to collect data on socio-demographic and migration related characteristics. Data were analyzed using descriptive statistics, univariate logistic regression, and multivariable logistic regression. Results: The prevalence of CMD among migrant returnees was found to be 27.6%. Highly prevalent specific CMD symptoms included headaches, poor appetite, being tired, sleeping problems, and feeling unhappy or nervous. Being originally from Amhara and Oromia regions, being Christian, being divorced, not receiving salary on time, not being able to contact family, unable to prepare for domestic labor abroad, lack of cross- cultural awareness, and lack of knowledge and skills for work were all important risk factors for CMD. Migrants experienced adversities at different stages of their migration which are associated with psychological distress and even to long term mental illnesses. Conclusions: CMD symptoms were found to be prevalent among Ethiopian migrant returnees. As pre-migration factors are associated with CMD symptoms, pre-departure training could be useful to mitigate the risk factors. Creating and routinely arranging mental health interventions and rehabilitation services are advisable for returnees who are screened for, or diagnosed with, mental health problems.

Open Access