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The Aberfan disaster: 33-year follow-up of survivors

  • Louise Morgan (a1), Jane Scourfield (a1), David Williams (a2), Anne Jasper (a3) and Glyn Lewis (a4)...
Abstract
Background

Experiencing life-threatening events often contributes to the onset of such psychiatric conditions as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Children can develop PTSD; however, there is controversy over whether PTSD symptoms decrease or persist over time.

Aims

To examine the long-term effects of surviving the 1966 Aberfan disaster in childhood.

Method

Survivors (n=41) were compared with controls (n=72) matched for age and background. All were interviewed using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview, measures of current health and social satisfaction, and the General Health Questionnaire. The survivor group also completed the Impact of Event Scale to assess current levels of PTSD.

Results

Nineteen (46%; 95%CI 31–61) survivors had had PTSD at some point since the disaster, compared with 12 (20%; 95% CI 10–30) controls (OR=3.38 (95% CI 1.40–8.47)). Of the survivors, 12 (29%; 95% CI 15–43) met diagnostic criteria for current PTSD. Survivors were not at a significantly increased risk of anxiety, depression or substance misuse.

Conclusions

Trauma in childhood can lead to PTSD, and PTSD symptoms can persist for as long as 33 years into adult life. Rates of other psychopathological disorders are not necessarily raised after life-threatening childhood trauma.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Louise Morgan, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences, Royal Free Hospital, Pond Street, Hampstead, London NW3 1YD, UK. E-mail: L.Morgan@rfc.ucl.ac.uk
Footnotes
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Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes
References
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The British Journal of Psychiatry
  • ISSN: 0007-1250
  • EISSN: 1472-1465
  • URL: /core/journals/the-british-journal-of-psychiatry
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The Aberfan disaster: 33-year follow-up of survivors

  • Louise Morgan (a1), Jane Scourfield (a1), David Williams (a2), Anne Jasper (a3) and Glyn Lewis (a4)...
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