[Psychological stress in the earthquake survivors: the psychological aftermath of the Wenchuan earthquake]

Yang Guo, Ai-min Chen, Hao-chun Lin, Lian-xu Zhao
Nan Fang Yi Ke da Xue Xue Bao, Journal of Southern Medical University 2008, 28 (7): 1114-6

OBJECTIVE: To investigate the psychological stress in the survivors of the May 12, 2008 Wenchuan earthquake transferred to Guangzhou for treatment, and explore the association between the psychological stress and the physical injuries related to the earthquake to promote both the physical and psychological recoveries of the survivors.

METHODS: Fifty-five earthquake survivors, including 27 with 28 without physical injuries, were transferred in our hospital 1 week after the earthquake. The Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Checklist-Civilian version (PCL-C) and the Self Reporting Questionnaire (SRQ) were used to investigate the psychological stress in these survivors.

RESULTS: The earthquake caused serious psychological stress in these survivors, and 43.63% of the survivors had high PCL-C scores (50 or above) and 78.18% had high SRQ scores (over 7), with 41.82% having high scores for both PCL-C and SRQ. The survivors with physical injuries generally had high PCL-C and SRQ scores (49.780-/+14.503 and 12.110-/+4.619, respectively), which, however, were not statistically different from the scores of the survivors without injuries (44.460-/+13.206 and 10.460-/+5.000, respectively, P>0.05). The injured survivors showed high scores for the subscales of persistent avoidance symptoms and of anger and irritability, in which the item scores for "efforts to avoid activities or places that arouse recollections of the earthquake" and "feeling of detachment or estrangement from others" were significantly different between the survivor with physical injuries and those without (P=0.034 and 0.018, respectively).

CONCLUSION: The Wenchuan earthquake causes serious psychological stress in the survivors, and the wounded are more inclined to have persistent avoidance symptoms and enhanced irritability. In addition to the care of the physical injuries, psychological counseling and social support may help ameliorate the psychological trauma in the survivors and reduce the incidence of PTSD.

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