Traumatic experiences and mental health consequences among child survivors of the 2008 Sichuan earthquake: a community-based follow-up study
1 Department of Health Service Management, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai, 200433, China
2 Department of Health Systems Management, School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, Tulane University, New Orleans, USA
3 Department of Psychology, Second Military Medical University, Shanghai, China
4 Department of Hospital Management, Fudan University, Shanghai, China
BMC Public Health 2013, 13:104 doi:10.1186/1471-2458-13-104Published: 5 February 2013
The study was implemented to examine the relationship between traumatic experiences and longitudinal development of mental health for children and adolescents who survived the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
Using the method of multistage systematic sampling, 596 children aged between 8 and 16 years were randomly selected from severely affected areas of the earthquake. These children were interviewed with standardized instruments of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression at the 15th month after the earthquake, and re-interviewed at the 36th month.
From the initial to the follow-up assessments, there were no significant changes in both PTSD and depression scores. In addition, no significant change was found on the overall prevalence rates of the symptoms: from 12.4% to 10.7% for PTSD, from 13.9% to 13.5% for depression, and from 4.2% to 4.7% for their co-occurrence. The study also indicated that the earthquake might have a delayed impact on the psychosocial functioning of children and adolescents who were not directly affected by the disaster.
For child and adolescent survivors of the earthquake, symptoms of PTSD and depression seemed to persist over time. The finding that children reduced their use of mental health services raised great concerns over how to fulfill the unmet psychological needs of these children. More mental health interventions should be allocated to children who had elevated risk for developing persistent course of the symptoms.