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Long-term mental health and social support in victims of disaster: comparison with a general population sample

Authors
  • Thoresen, Siri
  • Birkeland, Marianne Skogbrott
  • Arnberg, Filip K.
  • Wentzel-Larsen, Tore
  • Blix, Ines
Publication Date
Dec 21, 2018
Source
PubMed Central
Keywords
Language
English
License
Unknown
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Abstract

BACKGROUND: Trauma and traumatic bereavement have well-known consequences for mental health, but little is known about long-term adjustment, particularly with respect to health-protective factors. AIMS: To assess the levels of anxiety/depression and perceived social support among the survivors and the bereaved 26 years after the Scandinavian Star ferry disaster compared with expected levels from the general population. METHOD: Anxiety/depression and social support were assessed in face-to-face interviews with the survivors and the bereaved (N = 165, response rate 58%). Expected scores were calculated for each participant based on the means and proportions for each age and gender combination from a general population sample. We computed the ratio between expected and observed scores, standardised mean differences with 95% confidence intervals and standardised effect sizes. RESULTS: We found an elevated level of anxiety/depression symptoms in the victims (M(diff) = 0.28, 95% CI 0.18, 0.38; effect size 0.43, 95% CI 0.31, 0.55) and a significant excess of individuals with a clinically significant level of symptoms. The observed level of perceived social support was significantly lower than that expected (M(diff) = −0.57, 95% CI −0.70, −0.44; effect size −0.73, 95% CI −0.89, −0.57). This was the case for both survivors and those who were bereaved and for both men and women. CONCLUSIONS: This study reveals that disaster survivors and the bereaved reported elevated levels of anxiety and depression symptoms 26 years after the event. They also reported a markedly reduced level of social support. Traumas and post-traumatic responses may thus cause lasting harm to interpersonal relationships. DECLARATION OF INTEREST: None.

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