WEDNESDAY, Nov. 15, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- The American dream is nightmarish for many illegal immigrants. More than three-quarters living in a city near the California-Mexico border have suffered a traumatic event, a new study reveals.
The result: Many are living with significant psychological distress, say researchers from Rice University in Houston.
"Our findings are alarming," said study lead author Luz Garcini, a postdoctoral research fellow in the department of psychology.
Interviews with nearly 250 illegal Mexican immigrants found that 82 percent had suffered some sort of trauma.
For example, a high number had been victims of violent attacks, witnessed violence or lived in poverty. About one-third had experienced at least six or more types of traumatic events, according to the study.
"The prevalence of traumatic events among undocumented immigrants in our study is much higher compared with estimates for other U.S. populations," Garcini said in a university news release.
She added that the current U.S. socio-political climate and punitive actions against the undocumented community may increase their risk of exposure to traumatic events.
For the study, her team interviewed 248 illegal Mexican immigrants (172 women and 76 men) living in a "high-risk" border city. It's considered high-risk because it's very conservative and takes a hard line against illegal immigrants.
Study participants had lived in the United States for more than 10 years. Most were between 18 and 45 years old.
Nearly half of those who reported a history of traumatic events had clinically significant psychological distress, the study reported.
Among that group, almost 60 reported a history of domestic violence or bodily injury, 56 percent said they had witnessed violence toward others and 53 percent said they had seen loved ones injured.
Revisiting immigration policies and pursuing support mechanisms to protect the human rights of this immigrant population are essential, Garcini said.
The study was published online recently in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.
The Department of Homeland Security provides statistics on immigrants in the U.S..