BMC International Health and Human Rights (Sep 2019)

Social support attenuates the link between torture exposure and post-traumatic stress disorder among male and female Syrian refugees in Sweden

  • Maria Gottvall,
  • Marjan Vaez,
  • Fredrik Saboonchi

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 19, no. 1
pp. 1 – 11


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Abstract Background The aim of this study is threefold: (i) to establish the psychometric properties and gender invariance of ENRICHD Social Support Inventory (ESSI), which was used for the first time in the present study in the population of Syrian refugees resettled in Sweden; (ii) to assess whether gender moderates the associations between social support, exposure to torture and PTSD; (iii) to assess whether social support mediates the association between exposure to torture and PTSD, and whether this mediation is in turn moderated by gender. Methods Data from a cross-sectional and population-based study of a random sample of Syrian refugees (n = 1215) resettled in Sweden 2011˗2013 was analyzed within a Structural Equation Modeling (SEM) framework. Results Our results indicate adequate fit and gender invariance for a unidimensional model of ESSI. Exposure to torture was associated with lower social support (B = ˗0.22, p < 0.01) and with higher odds ratio (OR) for PTSD (OR 2.52, 95% Confidence interval (CI) 1.83˗3.40). Furthermore, higher social support was associated with less likelihood for PTSD (B = ˗0.56, p < 0.001). Social support partially mediated the effect of torture exposure on PTSD (OR 1.13, 95% bias corrected bootstrap CI 1.06˗1.26). Gender did not moderate this pattern. Conclusion The results indicate that social support attenuates the link between torture exposure and PTSD, and may function as a protective factor for PTSD among both torture-exposed refugee men and women.