Psychological consequences and associated risk factors among adult survivors of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake

Zhibin Wu, Jiuping Xu, Lili He
BMC Psychiatry 2014, 14: 126

BACKGROUND: In 2008, a devastating earthquake measuring 8.0 on the Richter scale struck Wenchuan, China. Following this disaster, several studies were conducted which assessed the degree of mental disorders in the affected population, but very few considered that several disorders may occur at the same time. This paper aims to investigate the psychological effects and risk factors among adult survivors one-year after the earthquake event.

METHODS: 2080 adult earthquake survivors from 19 counties in the affected areas were interviewed. A stratified sampling strategy was used to collect the information. Earthquake survivors completed self-report questionnaires, which included a post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) checklist, a self-rating depression scale and a self-rating anxiety scale.

RESULTS: Fifty nine percent of the participants were male. The prevalence of probable PTSD in the sample was 40.1% (based on the DSM-IV criteria). Significant differences in the demographic variables were found in the levels of anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Anxiety levels were found to be positively correlated with depression (r = 0.438, p < 0.01) and PTSD (r = 0.322, p < 0.01). Risk factors for each symptom were also identified. Being female, having a low income level and having a low perceived level of social support were found to be the risk factors associated with anxiety, depression, and PTSD. There appeared to be no obvious relationship between the distance from the epicenter of the earthquake event and the severity of the psychological problems.

CONCLUSIONS: PTSD, anxiety, and depression were prevalent among the survivors. Most findings on the predictors were found to be consistent with current research. Positive adjustment and social support were found to be needed for the highest-risk population.

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