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Rev Panam Salud Publica. 2005 Oct-Nov;18(4-5):287-95.

Psychological and psychopathological reactions in Honduras following Hurricane Mitch: implications for service planning.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown University, Providence, Rhode Island 02906, USA.



Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychopathological outcomes have not been sufficiently studied in community-based samples in Latin America. This study explored various psychopathological reactions and their respective risk factors two months after Hurricane Mitch struck Honduras in October 1998.


In the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa, 800 respondents age 15 and older were selected from residential areas of high, middle, or low socioeconomic status that had suffered either high or low impact from the devastating effects of the hurricane. The Composite International Diagnostic Interview was used to diagnose PTSD. Depression, alcohol misuse, and grief reaction were examined using screening instruments, and the Self-Reporting Questionnaire was used to measure demoralization. The Impact of Event Scale was administered to ascertain the severity of the posttraumatic reaction.


PTSD was present in 10.6% of the sample. Respondents from the high-impact residential areas were more distressed, had higher scores on the grief inventory, and showed greater severity in PTSD symptoms. The respondents from the high-impact residential areas also had higher prevalence rates of major depression, alcoholism, and prior emotional problems. The best explanatory model for the risk of developing PTSD included the degree of exposure based on reported traumatic events, and associated increased demoralization. Among the persons with PTSD, its severity was predicted by being female and by the degree of exposure to hurricane-related traumatic events.


Out of a total population of 3.3 million adults (age 15 and older) in Honduras, it is estimated that over 492,000 of them may have developed PTSD due to Hurricane Mitch. Adequate health disaster preparedness and response requires full acknowledgement of the multiple psychological effects that victims experience.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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