Open Access Research article

Mental health status among Burmese adolescent students living in boarding houses in Thailand: a cross-sectional study

Takeshi Akiyama145, Thar Win2, Cynthia Maung2, Paw Ray3, Kayako Sakisaka4, Aya Tanabe5, Jun Kobayashi567 and Masamine Jimba4*

Author Affiliations

1 Immunobiology Group, Department of Tropical Infectious Diseases, Center of Molecular Biosciences, Tropical Biosphere Research Center, University of the Ryukyus, Senbaru 1, Nishihara, Okinawa 903-0213, Japan

2 The Mae Tao Clinic, 865 Moo 1, Intarakiri Road, Mae Sot, Tak 63110, Thailand

3 Burmese Migrant Workers’ Education Committee, 644 Samasapkarm Road, Moo 2 Para Hta Pa Den, Mae Sot, Tak 63110, Thailand

4 Department of Community and Global Health, Graduate School of Medicine, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1 Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-0033, Japan

5 Japan Association for Mae Tao Clinic, 1-1 Kaguragashi, Shinjuku-ku, Mail Box No. 52, Tokyo 162-0823, Japan

6 Department of Global Health, School of Health Sciences, University of the Ryukyus, 207 Uehara, Nishihara, Okinawa 903-0215, Japan

7 Bureau of International Medical Cooperation, National Center for Global Health and Medicine, 1-21-1 Toyama, Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo 162-8655, Japan

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BMC Public Health 2013, 13:337  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-337

Published: 12 April 2013



In Tak province of Thailand, a number of adolescent students who migrated from Burma have resided in the boarding houses of migrant schools. This study investigated mental health status and its relationship with perceived social support among such students.


This cross-sectional study surveyed 428 students, aged 12–18 years, who lived in boarding houses. The Hopkins Symptom Checklist (HSCL)-37 A, Stressful Life Events (SLE) and Reactions of Adolescents to Traumatic Stress (RATS) questionnaires were used to assess participants’ mental health status and experience of traumatic events. The Medical Outcome Study (MOS) Social Support Survey Scale was used to measure their perceived level of social support. Descriptive analysis was conducted to examine the distribution of sociodemographic characteristics, trauma experiences, and mental health status. Further, multivariate linear regression analysis was used to examine the association between such characteristics and participants’ mental health status.


In total, 771 students were invited to participate in the study and 428 students chose to take part. Of these students, 304 completed the questionnaire. A large proportion (62.8%) indicated that both of their parents lived in Myanmar, while only 11.8% answered that both of their parents lived in Thailand. The mean total number of traumatic events experienced was 5.7 (standard deviation [SD] 2.9), mean total score on the HSCL-37A was 63.1 (SD 11.4), and mean total score on the RATS was 41.4 (SD 9.9). Multivariate linear regression analysis revealed that higher number of traumatic events was associated with more mental health problems.


Many students residing in boarding houses suffered from poor mental health in Thailand’s Tak province. The number of traumatic experiences reported was higher than expected. Furthermore, these traumatic experiences were associated with poorer mental health status. Rather than making a generalized assumption on the mental health status of migrants or refugees, more detailed observation is necessary to elucidate the unique nature and vulnerabilities of this mobile population.