Fourteen months after the 2004 tsunami, mental health outcome was assessed in 187 bereaved relatives, 308 bereaved friends, and in 3,020 nonbereaved Swedish survivors. Of the bereaved relatives, 41% reported posttraumatic stress reactions and 62% reported impaired general mental health. Having been caught or chased by the tsunami in combination with bereavement was associated with increased posttraumatic stress reactions. Complicated grief reactions among relatives were almost as frequent as posttraumatic stress reactions. The highest levels of psychological distress were found among those who had lost children. Traumatic bereavement, in combination with exposure to life danger, is probably a risk factor for mental health sequelae after a natural disaster.
This study evaluated the properties of Swedish versions of self-report measures of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with emphasis on the Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R). Survey data from adult survivors 1, 3, and 6 years after the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami (n=1506) included the IES-R (from which the IES-6 was derived) and the 12-item General Health Questionnaire (GHQ-12). The PTSD Checklist (PCL) was included in one survey. A structured clinical interview was performed after 6 years (n=142). Factor analyses of the IES-R and PCL indicated that a dysphoric-arousal model provided good fit invariant across assessments. Both measures were accurate in excluding PTSD while all measures provided poorer positive predictive values. The IES-R, but not the IES-6 and GHQ-12, evidenced stability across assessments. In conclusion, the Swedish IES-R and PCL are sound measures of chronic PTSD, and the findings illustrate important temporal aspects of PTSD assessment.
The characteristics of long-term trajectories of distress after disasters are unclear, since few studies include a comparison group. This study examines trajectories of recovery among survivors in comparison to individuals with indirect exposure.
Postal surveys were sent to Swedish tourists, repatriated from the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami (n=2268), at 1, 3, and 6 years after the tsunami to assess posttraumatic stress (PTS) and poor mental health. Items were used to ascertain high and moderate disaster exposure groups and an indirect exposure comparison group.
Long-term PTS trajectories were best characterized by a resilient (72.3%), a severe chronic (4.6%), a moderate chronic (11.2%) and a recovering (11.9%) trajectory. Trajectories reported higher levels of PTS than the comparison group. Exposure severity and bereavement were highly influential risk factors.
These findings have implications regarding anticipation of long-term psychological adjustment after natural disasters and need for interventions after a single traumatic event with few secondary stressors.