Long-Term Posttraumatic Stress in Survivors from Disasters and Major Accidents

Detta är en avhandling från Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Sammanfattning: Disasters and major accidents are a significant cause of distress worldwide. High levels of posttraumatic stress can become chronic after severe and prolonged psychological trauma, raising concerns about the extent of adverse long-term consequences after single events. The present thesis aimed to describe the course and burden of posttraumatic stress in survivors from a ferry disaster in the Baltic Sea, an airliner crash-landing in Gottröra, Sweden, and a bus accident involving Swedish 6th grade schoolchildren in Måbødalen, Norway.The participants were surveyed 1 month to 4 years after the events and again after 14 to 20 years. The follow-up surveys included 33 ferry disaster survivors, 70 airline survivors, and 7 surviving schoolchildren with a comparison group from the same school (n = 33). Short- and long-term changes in posttraumatic stress were estimated separately in generalised regression models refined by linear splines. In-depth interviews were conducted with 22 ferry survivors 15 years after the disaster, including structured clinical interviews and thematic analysis of survivors’ descriptions of consequences of the event and social support.Approximately half of all survivors experienced significant posttraumatic stress at the initial assessments. Significant long-term distress was noted in one fourth of the ferry survivors and one sixth of the airline survivors. The bus crash was not associated with significant long-term posttraumatic stress. A poorer long-term outcome was noted in women and in bereaved survivors.The thematic analysis revealed that long-term consequences not only included negative aspects but also positive ones, including personal growth and existential awareness. There was ample availability of social support, although the need for support extended over a period of several years. Barriers to support from significant others were described in detail by the survivors.The results extend previous research by providing a comprehensive account of long-term consequences of disasters and major accidents in light of early reactions. The interviews provide some new insights into features of social support that warrant further study. Important future challenges include evaluating whether timely attention to survivors at risk for chronic distress and significant others can facilitate recovery.