Posttraumatic stress disorder and somatic symptoms among child and adolescent survivors following the Lushan earthquake in China: A six-month longitudinal study

Jun Zhang, Shenyue Zhu, Changhui Du, Ye Zhang
Journal of Psychosomatic Research 2015, 79 (2): 100-6

OBJECTIVE: To explore somatic conditions in a sample of 2299 child and adolescent survivors of an earthquake and their relationship to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

METHODS: The Children's Revised Impact of Event Scale, the Patient Health Questionnaire (PHQ)-13 scale, a short version of PHQ-15 scale that omits two items involving sexual pain/problems and menstrual problems, and a project-developed questionnaire were administered to participants three and six months after the earthquake.

RESULTS: Among child and adolescent survivors, the prevalence rates of probable PTSD were 37.4 and 24.2% three and six months, respectively, after the earthquake. The most common somatic symptoms were trouble sleeping (58.4 and 48.4%), feeling tired or having low energy (52.0 and 46.1%), and stomach pain (45.8 and 45.4%) after three and six months, respectively. Several specific somatic symptoms evaluated three months after the earthquake including trouble sleeping, headache, and shortness of breath were predictors of the overall PTSD symptoms evaluated six months after the earthquake. Additionally, the symptom of hyperarousal evaluated after three months could predict the overall somatic symptoms evaluated after six months.

CONCLUSIONS: PTSD and somatic symptoms were common after the earthquake, and a longitudinal association between PTSD and somatic symptoms was detected among child and adolescent survivors. These findings have implications in China and possibly elsewhere.

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