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Posttraumatic stress disorder among adolescent earthquake victims in Taiwan.

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Department of Psychiatry, Kaohsiung Medical University, Taiwan.



To assess the exposure experience and prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among adolescent victims in the worst-affected region (Chungliao) near the epicenter of a severe earthquake (7.3 on the Richter scale) that occurred on September 21, 1999, in Taiwan.


The experience of exposure to the earthquake and subjective symptoms of junior high school students aged 12 to 14 who remained in the area were assessed with self-rated questionnaires. Psychiatrists made independent diagnoses for PTSD by using the Children's Interview for Psychiatric Syndromes.


Six weeks after the earthquake, 21.7% of 323 students demonstrated PTSD. Those with PTSD showed significantly more psychiatric symptoms than did those without PTSD. Being physically injured and experiencing the death of a close family member with whom they had lived were the 2 major risk factors for PTSD.


This study demonstrates that PTSD among adolescent victims of a severe earthquake in Taiwan is not as high as that reported in other studies. Methodological differences in the investigations are discussed, along with differences in symptom manifestations. However, long-term follow-up of these victims is recommended to prevent the development of other psychiatric complications.

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