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J Psychosom Res. 1993 Dec;37(8):793-805.

The effect of major railway accidents on the psychological health of train drivers--I. Acute psychological responses to accident.

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  • 1Department of Psychosomatic and Behavioural Medicine, University of Oslo, National Hospital, Norway.


The acute psychological reactions of 101 train drivers to on-the-track accidents were studied by means of clinical interviews and questionnaires (Impact of Event Scale, GHQ-20 and a questionnaire addressing stress symptoms, pre-accident expectancies and worries). More than half of the train drivers reported moderate to high intrusive distress (mean 11.3) within hours to days after the accident but only 1/3 reported symptoms of acute psychophysiological arousal. Intrusive symptoms related to visual impressions were most frequently reported. Avoidance was less prevalent (mean 8.8). Clinical interviews, relationship between pre-accident worries and severity of the acute responses and positive correlation between GHQ-scores relating to the fortnight preceding the accident and IES-intrusion scores, suggest that premorbid variables may influence the stress response. Involvement in more than two previous accidents invoked a feeling of vulnerability and produced stronger acute responses. Post-accident experiences involving various personal contacts did not correlate with the stress responses in this study and only a few drivers experienced such events in a negative way. Denial of the possibility of being involved in accidents was not associated with increased risk of strong acute responses, indicating that denial does not predict poor outcome in healthy persons exposed to situations where possibility of avoiding the event is outside the control of the person.

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