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Compr Psychiatry. 2002 Jan-Feb;43(1):49-55.

The impact of torture on post-traumatic stress symptoms in war-affected Tamil refugees and immigrants.

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  • 1School of Psychiatry, Psychiatry Research and Teaching Unit, Health Services Building, University of New South Wales, Liverpool Hospital, Liverpool NSW 2170, Australia.


The present study examines the effect of torture in generating post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms by comparing its impact with that of other traumas suffered by a war-affected sample of Tamils living in Australia. Traumatic predictors of PTSD were examined among a subsample of 107 Tamils (refugees, asylum seekers, and voluntary immigrants) who had endorsed at least one trauma category on the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire. Principal components analysis (PCA) yielded five trauma factors that were applied to predicting PTSD scores. Tamils exposed to torture returned statistically higher PTSD scores than other war trauma survivors after controlling for overall levels of trauma exposure. The torture factor identified by the PCA was found to be the main predictor of PTSD in a multiple regression analysis. Although limited by sampling constraints and retrospective measurement, the present study provides support for the identification of torture as a particularly traumatic event, even when the impact of other war-related trauma is taken into account.

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