Psychological health and coping strategy among survivors in the year following the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake

Jiuping Xu, Yuan He
Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 2012, 66 (3): 210-9

AIM: The powerful earthquake of 12 May 2008 wrought incalculable havoc on lives and properties in Wenchuan, Sichuan Province, China. The catastrophic earthquake not only created tremendous changes in the external environment, but also caused stress and difficulties for the people in the affected areas which were felt long after the event. In this study, we attempt to clarify the correlation between coping strategies and psychological well-being among survivors across sex and levels of exposure.

METHOD: A total of 2080 survivors from 19 counties freely participated in the survey which used self-report psychological questionnaires, the Short Form-12, version 2 Scale and Coping Scales. We estimated regression models to identify the coping factors associated with the presence of mental symptoms after the disaster.

RESULTS: Four main factors (middle-age, low educational level, low monthly income, and high exposure) were significantly related to poor health. Highly exposed survivors tended to problem-avoidance, fantasy, self-blame and seeking assistance, which was significantly different to those lowly exposed. Women tended to be more vulnerable than men and exhibited problem-avoidance and self-blame. Six coping styles were significant determinants and predicted 64.2% of health.

CONCLUSION: Post-disaster mental health recovery intervention, including early identification, ongoing monitoring, sustained psychosocial support and more mental health services, are required for the high-risk population, especially for women.

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