Prevalence and risk factors for posttraumatic stress disorder: a cross-sectional study among survivors of the Wenchuan 2008 earthquake in China

Peng Kun, Shucheng Han, Xunchui Chen, Lan Yao
Depression and Anxiety 2009, 26 (12): 1134-40

BACKGROUND: The impact of the May 2008 Wenchuan earthquake, measuring a massive 8.0 on the surface wave magnitude scale, on public health in China has been significant and multifaceted. In light of extant data on prevalence and risk factors for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after other natural diasters, we collected data from the Wenchuan earthquake survivors to estimate the prevalence of PTSD and to characterize a range of PTSD risk factors.

METHODS: A cross-sectional multicluster sample survey of 446 respondents (201 from the Qiang ethnic-minority group, 245 the majority Han Chinese group) was conducted in August 2008 in Beichuan county, Sichuan province, a region that was severely affected by the earthquake. In total, 240 households were represented, with a mean of 2.2 respondents per household. Data were collected from structured interviews and the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ) and DSM-IV criteria were used to diagnose PTSD.

RESULTS: The prevalence of PTSD was 45.5% (203/446). Low household income, being from an ethnic minority, living in a shelter or temporary house, death in family, and household damage were factors significantly related to increased odds of PTSD.

CONCLUSIONS: PTSD is common after a major disaster. Postdisaster mental health recovery programs that include early identification, ongoing monitoring, preventive and intervention programs, and sustained psychosocial support are needed for the highest-risk population, namely, the bereaved, people without incomes and those with serious household damage. These populations may also benefit from governmental and nongovernmental programs that provide social and economic support, as suggested by earlier studies.

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