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Trauma-afflicted refugees' experiences of participating in physical activity and exercise treatment: a qualitative study based on focus group discussions
Röda Korsets Högskola.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-4842-1683
Röda Korsets Högskola.ORCID iD: 0000-0001-5376-5048
Uppsala University, Disciplinary Domain of Medicine and Pharmacy, Medicinska och farmaceutiska vetenskapsområdet, centrumbildningar mm, Center for Clinical Research Dalarna. Department of Health Sciences, The Swedish Red Cross University College.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-8709-4446
Röda Korsets Högskola.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-9836-5336
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2019 (English)In: European Journal of Psychotraumatology, ISSN 2000-8066, E-ISSN 2000-8066, Vol. 10, no 1, article id 1699327Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Background: Refugees with prolonged and repeated experiences of trauma, often in combination with post-migration living difficulties, are subjected to severe levels of stress and stress-related ill health, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Physical activity (PA) is well-established as an effective stress reliever. However, the effect of PA and exercise has received scarce attention in the context of PTSD, and particularly in the field of refugees’ health.

Objective: The objective of this study was to explore the experience of participation in PA and exercise as part of the treatment for trauma-afflicted refugees.

Method: An explorative qualitative research design was used. Six focus group discussions were conducted with 33 female and male participants that had experience of group-based PA and exercise treatment. The gathered data was analysed by qualitative content analysis.

Results: The analysis resulted in one over-arching theme reflecting the participants overall experience of PA and exercise as a process of building resilience. Participants experienced improvements in both physical and mental health domains. Increased self-awareness and self-confidence were seen as additional important benefits, and the interruption of daily stressors provided a sense of relief and recovery. The treatment group settings were experienced as becoming a vehicle for overcoming social fear and isolation, which also carried an empowering and strength-building impact over to participants’ family life and social relationships. Treatment characteristics were experienced as highly supportive and often referred to as the basis of other positive experiences and perceived health benefits.

Conclusions: The result of this study outlines a detailed account of trauma-afflicted refugees’ experiences and preferences of PA and exercise-based treatment from a broad range of perspectives. These findings provide a starting point for future research in this field and indicate a particular need for both research and intervention development to include the real-life impact of participating in such treatments.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2019. Vol. 10, no 1, article id 1699327
Keywords [en]
Physical activity, exercise, refugee, trauma, post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD, post-migration stress, physiotherapy, group-based treatment, mental health
National Category
Psychology Psychiatry
Research subject
Psychiatry; Psychology
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:uu:diva-400085DOI: 10.1080/20008198.2019.1699327ISI: 000506387700001PubMedID: 31853335OAI: oai:DiVA.org:uu-400085DiVA, id: diva2:1380144
Funder
Forte, Swedish Research Council for Health, Working Life and Welfare, 2016-00426Available from: 2019-12-18 Created: 2019-12-18 Last updated: 2020-03-02Bibliographically approved

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