To study changes in religious beliefs and predictors of such changes in a community sample exposed to a natural disaster, and to investigate whether religiosity was linked to post-disaster mental distress or life satisfaction.
An adult population of 1,180 Norwegian tourists who experienced the 2004 tsunami was surveyed by a postal questionnaire 2 years after the disaster. Data included religiosity, disaster exposure, general psychopathology, posttraumatic stress and life satisfaction.
Among the respondents, 8% reported strengthening and 5% reported weakening of their religious beliefs. Strengthening was associated with pre-tsunami mental health problems (OR: 1.82, 95% CI: 1.12-2.95) and posttraumatic stress (OR: 1.62, 95% CI: 1.22-2.16). Weakening was associated with younger age (OR: 0.98, 95% CI: 0.96-1.00) and posttraumatic stress (OR: 1.72, 95% CI: 1.23-2.41). Two years after the tsunami, 11% of the sample considered themselves to be positively religious. There were no significant differences in posttraumatic stress, general psychopathology or life satisfaction between religious and non-religious groups.
Religion did not play an important role in the lives of Norwegian tsunami survivors in general. Respondents who had the greatest disaster exposure were more likely to report changes in religious beliefs in both directions. Religious beliefs did not prevent post-disaster long-term mental distress, and religiosity was not related to higher levels of life satisfaction.
Cites: Tidsskr Nor Laegeforen. 2000 Jan 30;120(3):346-810827526