Prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder in Sichuan Province, China after the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake

P Kun, X Chen, S Han, X Gong, M Chen, W Zhang, L Yao
Public Health 2009, 123 (11): 703-7

OBJECTIVE: To estimate the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and assess the associated risk factors among earthquake survivors in different areas after the Wenchuan earthquake in China.

STUDY DESIGN: Cross-sectional multicluster sample surveys were employed using data collected from two counties.

METHODS: Surveys were conducted separately in Beichuan and Langzhong Counties in Sichuan Province, with a total of 1002 respondents. Beichuan County was damaged more severely than Langzhong County during the earthquake in May 2008. A total of 426 households were represented in the data, with a mean of 2.2 respondents per household. Data were collected using structured interviews and the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire.

RESULTS: The prevalence of suspected PTSD was 45.5% (n=203) in Beichuan County (heavily damaged) and 9.4% (n=52) in Langzhong County (moderately damaged). Household income, living conditions (settlements), deaths in families and household damage were significantly related to the prevalence of suspected PTSD in heavily damaged areas.

CONCLUSION: Interventions designed to reduce PTSD among populations affected by the May 2008 earthquake should focus on individuals with no household income, those living in shelters or temporary houses, those with damaged households, and those who experienced a death in the family. Governments should support income-generating activities and improve living conditions. Trained field personnel can assist with PTSD assessments and referrals, and existing rural healthcare services should be used to provide treatment for common psychiatric disorders.

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