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Posttraumatic stress disorder in elderly and younger adults after the 1988 earthquake in Armenia
Am J Psychiatry 1994;151:895-901.
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OBJECTIVE: This study was undertaken 1 1/2 years after the 1988 earthquake in Armenia to assess the frequency and severity of posttraumatic stress reactions among elderly and younger adult victims and to assess the relation of exposure, age, sex, and death of a family member to these reactions. METHOD: One hundred seventy-nine subjects of both sexes were evaluated with the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Reaction Index. A subgroup of 60 individuals were also assessed for PTSD with the DSM-III-R criteria. RESULTS: There was a strong association between the presence of severe symptoms on the index and a DSM-III-R diagnosis of PTSD. Elderly and younger adult victims in cities closer to the epicenter (higher exposure) had significantly higher index scores than elderly and adult victims in more distant locations. In comparison with previous studies of natural disasters, much greater rates of chronic severe posttraumatic stress reactions were found among the highly exposed individuals. Although there was no difference in total mean score on the Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Reaction Index, a significant difference in symptom profile was found between the elderly and younger adults; the elderly scored higher on arousal symptoms and lower on intrusive symptoms. There was a positive correlation between loss of family members and severity of posttraumatic stress reaction. CONCLUSIONS: These findings indicate that after a major natural disaster with subsequent multiple adversities, a substantial proportion of the adult population may experience severe and chronic posttraumatic stress reactions. The risk factors identified in this study may prove useful in screening exposed individuals for appropriate treatment.

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