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BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Studies in western samples have shown that post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression are associated with overgeneral autobiographical memory retrieval. This study assesses whether this association extends to asylum seekers and refugees from diverse cultural backgrounds. We discuss implications for those providing testimony of their experiences when seeking asylum. METHOD: 38 asylum seekers and refugees were recruited through clinics and community groups. Clinical interviews assessed PTSD and depression and participants completed a test of autobiographical memory specificity. RESULTS: When accounting for omissions, participants with PTSD and depression recalled a lower proportion of specific memories. Those with PTSD also failed more frequently to report any memory. LIMITATIONS: The sample did not permit separate evaluation of the effects of PTSD and depression on specificity. CONCLUSIONS: Lower memory specificity observed in people experiencing PTSD and depression in western populations extends to asylum seekers and refugees from diverse cultural backgrounds. This study adds to the literature suggesting that being recognised as a refugee fleeing persecution is more difficult for those with post-traumatic symptoms and depression.

Original publication




Journal article


J Behav Ther Exp Psychiatry

Publication Date





375 - 380


Depression, Overgeneral autobiographical memory, PTSD, Refugees, Adult, Female, Humans, Male, Memory, Episodic, Middle Aged, Refugees, Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic