Sixteen-year follow-up of childhood avalanche survivors
Thordardottir, Edda Bjork
Shipherd, Jillian C.
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CitationThordardottir, Edda Bjork, Unnur Anna Valdimarsdottir, Ingunn Hansdottir, Arna Hauksdóttir, Atle Dyregrov, Jillian C. Shipherd, Ask Elklit, Heidi Resnick, and Berglind Gudmundsdottir. 2016. “Sixteen-year follow-up of childhood avalanche survivors.” European Journal of Psychotraumatology 7 (1): 10.3402/ejpt.v7.30995. doi:10.3402/ejpt.v7.30995. http://dx.doi.org/10.3402/ejpt.v7.30995.
AbstractBackground: Every year a substantial number of children are affected by natural disasters worldwide. However, data are scarce on long-term psychological impact of natural disasters on children's health. Identifying risk factors and outcomes associated with the long-term sequelae of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can provide a gateway to recovery as well as enhancement of preventive measures. Objective: Among childhood avalanche survivors, we aimed to investigate risk factors for PTSD symptoms and the relationship between socioeconomic status (SES) and PTSD symptoms in adulthood. Methods: Childhood survivors (aged 2–19 at the time of exposure) of two avalanches were identified through nationwide registers 16 years later. The Posttraumatic Diagnostic Scale was used to assess current PTSD symptoms. One-way ANOVA was used to explore PTSD symptoms by background and trauma-specific factors, as well as associations with current SES. Predictors of PTSD symptoms were examined by multivariable regression analysis. Results: Response rate was 66% (108/163). Results from univariate ANOVA analysis revealed that female sex was associated with PTSD symptoms (F=5.96, p<0.05). When adjusted for age and sex, PTSD symptoms were associated with lower education (F=7.62, p<0.001), poor financial status (F=12.21, p<0.001), and unemployment and/or disability (F=3.04, p<0.05). In a multivariable regression model, when adjusting for age and sex, lack of social support (t=4.22, p<0.001) and traumatic reactions of caregivers (t=2.49, p<0.05) in the aftermath of the disaster independently predicted PTSD 16 years post-trauma. Conclusions: Lingering PTSD symptoms after childhood exposure to a disaster may negatively influence socioeconomic development in adulthood. Strengthening children's support systems post-disaster may prevent the long-term sequelae of symptoms. Highlights of the article PTSD symptoms following avalanche exposure during childhood were associated with poorer socioeconomic status in adulthood. Lack of social support and traumatic reactions of caregivers in the aftermath of avalanches predicted PTSD symptoms among childhood survivors 16 years later. Findings underscore the importance of strengthening children's support systems in the aftermath of disasters.
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