Depression and PTSD symptoms among bereaved adolescents 6(1/2) years after the 1988 Spitak earthquake

Armen K Goenjian, David Walling, Alan M Steinberg, Alexandra Roussos, Haig A Goenjian, Robert S Pynoos
Journal of Affective Disorders 2009, 112 (1): 81-4

OBJECTIVE: To compare depression and PTSD symptoms of parentally bereaved adolescents and a comparison group after a catastrophic natural disaster.

METHOD: Six and a half years after the Spitak earthquake, 48 parentally bereaved adolescents and a comparison group of 44 subjects with no parental loss were evaluated using the Depression Self - Rating Scale (DSRS) and Child Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Reaction Index (CPTSD-RI).

RESULTS: Orphans scored significantly higher on depression than those who lost a father (Mean DSRS scores: 20.2+/-3.3 vs. 16.6+/-5.2; p<0.001), who in turn scored significantly higher than those who lost a mother (Mean DSRS scores: 16.6+/-5.2 vs. 12.7+/-4.1; p<0.002). Depression scores for orphans fell above the cut-off for clinical depression, while those who lost a father scored slightly below. PTSD scores within each group fell in the moderate range of severity, with girls scoring higher than boys (Mean CPTSD-RI scores: 35.9+/-11.3 vs. 29.3+/-10.1; p<0.04).

LIMITATION: As self-report instruments were used, responses may have been over- or under- reported. Participants belonged to the same ethnic group and therefore the results may not be generalizable to other populations.

CONCLUSION: Loss of both parents and, to a lesser degree, loss of a father is a significant risk factor for depression, but not for PTSD. This study extends prior findings documenting post-disaster chronicity of depression and PTSD among bereaved adolescents, and underscores the need for post-disaster mental health and social programs, especially for those who suffer the loss of both parents.

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