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Impact of childhood exposure to a natural disaster on adult mental health: 20-year longitudinal follow-up study

  • Alexander C. McFarlane (a1) and Miranda Van Hooff (a1)
Abstract
Background

Studies examining the impact of childhood disaster exposure on the development of adult psychopathology report increased rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychopathology.

Aims

To examine the rates of PTSD and other lifetime DSM–IV disorders in adults exposed to an Australian bushfire disaster as children in 1983 using a matched control sample recruited at the time of the original study.

Method

A total of 1011 adults recruited from an original sample of 1531 were assessed 20 years following the fires using the Composite International Diagnostic Interview (CIDI–2.1).

Results

Results showed only a small direct impact of the fires on adult psychiatric morbidity. A higher proportion of bushfire survivors met criteria for ‘any DSM–IV disorder’ and ‘any anxiety’.

Conclusions

Findings suggest that the long-term impact of a prominent trauma in childhood should be assessed in the context of other lifetime trauma in order to provide a more accurate account of PTSD prevalence rates.

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Copyright
Corresponding author
Miranda Van Hooff, Centre for Military and Veterans' Health, Level 2/122 Frome Street, Adelaide, South Australia 5000, Australia. Email: miranda.vanhooff@adelaide.edu.au
Footnotes
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This research was supported by a project grant from the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC Project Grant ID 201813 and program grant 300403).

Declaration of interest

None.

Footnotes
References
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Impact of childhood exposure to a natural disaster on adult mental health: 20-year longitudinal follow-up study

  • Alexander C. McFarlane (a1) and Miranda Van Hooff (a1)
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