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Prevalence of PTSD and depression among junior middle school students in a rural town far from the epicenter of the Wenchuan earthquake in China

Wei Wang, Wei Fu, Jin Wu, Xian-cang Ma, Xue-li Sun, Yi Huang, Kenji Hashimoto, Cheng-ge Gao
PloS One 2012, 7 (7): e41665
22911838

CONTEXT: On May 12(th) 2008, a devastating earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale, struck Wenchuan county and surrounding areas in China. The prevalence of mental illness among children and adolescents in a rural town far from the earthquake epicenter is unknown.

OBJECTIVE: To assess the prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression among junior middle school students in a rural town Ningqiang county, 327 km from the earthquake epicenter.

DESIGN, SETTING, AND PARTICIPANTS: A population-based mental health survey was conducted in March, 2009.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE: Survey Self-designed General Condition Survey Scale, Children's Revised Impact of Event Scale (CRIES-13), and the Depression Self-rating Scale for Children (DSRSC) were used to sample 1,841 junior middle school students in Ningqiang county, ten months after the Wenchuan earthquake.

RESULTS: The prevalence rate of a high-risk for PTSD was 28.4%, with 32.7% among females, 23.8% among males (female vs. male, p<0.001), 38.6% in the severe exposure group and 24.3% in the mild exposure group (severe vs. mild exposure, p<0.001). For depressive symptoms, the overall prevalence was 19.5%, with 24.0% among females, 14.7% among males, 24.5% in the severe exposure group and 17.5% in the mild exposure group (female vs. male, p<0.001; severe vs. mild exposure, p<0.001, respectively). In multivariate analysis, factors such as "having felt despair", or "danger" and "having own house destroyed or damaged" were significantly associated with PTSD symptoms. Female gender and delayed evacuation in females, and earthquake related experiences in males were significantly associated with depression.

CONCLUSION: Traumatic events experienced during the earthquake were significantly associated with symptoms of PTSD and depression in children and adolescents, ten months after the Wenchuan earthquake. These data highlight a need for mental health services for children and adolescents in rural areas, far from earthquake epicenters.

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