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Posttraumatic stress disorder among adolescent earthquake victims in Taiwan.

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1
Department of Psychiatry, Kaohsiung Medical University, Taiwan.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

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.

METHOD:

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.

RESULTS:

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.

CONCLUSIONS:

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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