Refugee Health and Worklessness

Long-term worklessness is one of the greatest known risks to public health

Worklessness and Mental Illness

The UK review of the British working-age found that long-term worklessness is one of the greatest known risks to public health. The significant links between mental illness and workless include

  • Workless people having up to ten times more episodes of anxiety and depression than their working peers (Waddell & Burton, 2006)
  • The reducing of life expectancy more than many ‘killer diseases’ (Waddell and Alylward, 2005)
  • Suicide rates in young men who have been workless for more than six months is increased 40 x (Wessely, 2004) and are increased 6 tines in the general population (Bartley et al, 2005).


Refugee mental health & worklessness

Many of those seeking asylum in Australia have been, or still are, detained in mandatory immigration detention for six years or more whilst waiting for their protection-visa application to be assessed.

Asylum seekers and refugees are prohibited to work whilst in detention. In other words, men and women are denied the natural and human right to work for six years or more.

There is a clear association between prolonged and indefinite incarceration and psychological injury for asylum seekers and refugees (e.g. Green and Edgar, 2010; Johnston, 2009; RACGP). 

The compound effect of indeterminate mandatory detention and their inability to work unequivocally leads to detainees developing anxiety, depression and complex post-traumatic stress injuries.

Pre-existing trauma injuries and conditions are exacerbated by detention and result in acute mental illnesses, self-harm and suicide attempts and completion.

Traumatic injuries endure long after refugees receive visas and move into Australian community.