Prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder among adolescents after the Wenchuan earthquake in China

Z Zhang, M S Ran, Y H Li, G J Ou, R R Gong, R H Li, M Fan, Z Jiang, D Z Fang
Psychological Medicine 2012, 42 (8): 1687-93

BACKGROUND: The Wenchuan earthquake was a catastrophic earthquake in China. The aim of this study is to explore longitudinally the rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression in adolescents after the Wenchuan earthquake, and to identify independent predictors of PTSD.

METHOD: PTSD and depression symptoms among adolescents at 6, 12 and 18 months after the Wenchuan earthquake were investigated using the PTSD Checklist Civilian Version and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI). Subjects in this study included 548 high school student survivors in a local boarding high school.

RESULTS: The rates of PTSD symptoms were 9.7%, 1.3% and 1.6% at the 6-, 12- and 18-month follow-ups, respectively. BDI scores were found to be the best predictor of severity of PTSD at 6, 12 and 18 months. Gender was another variable contributing significantly to PTSD at 6 and 12 months after the earthquake. In the 12-month follow-up, home damage was found to be a predictor of severity of PTSD symptoms. Being a child with siblings was found to be a predictor of severity of PTSD symptoms at 12 and 18 months after the earthquake.

CONCLUSIONS: PTSD symptoms changed gradually at various stages after the earthquake. Depression symptoms were predictive of PTSD symptoms in the 18-month follow-up study. Other predictors of PTSD symptoms included female gender and being a child with siblings. The results of this study may be helpful for further mental health interventions for adolescents after earthquakes.

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