Surveys reveal tsunami’s mental toll

PHUKET: Many people in tsunami-affected areas of Thailand suffered from depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for at least nine months after the disaster, according to two new studies.

Both studies were conducted initially in February 2005, with follow-ups seven months later, focusing on people in Phang Nga, Krabi and Phuket, the three provinces worst hit by the tsunami.

The results of the surveys were published in the August 2 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In one of the surveys, PTSD symptoms were found in February in 12% of those surveyed in Phang Nga who had lost their homes and suffered other losses, and 7% of those who had not lost their homes.

The figure for Krabi and Phuket, where only people who had not been displaced were surveyed, was considerably lower, at 3%.

Anxiety symptoms were, similarly, more prevalent in Phang Nga, with 37% of displaced people and 30% of non-displaced people suffering anxiety, compared with 22% in Krabi and Phuket.

Similarly, 30% of displaced and 21% of non-displaced people in Phang Nga had symptoms of depression, compared with 10% in the two other provinces.

Aggravating the PTSD, anxiety and depression caused by the tsunami itself was the loss of the ability to make a living, the study found.

The follow-up survey in the study found a fall in all three mental problems, though the rates were still higher than normally found in the population at large.

The second study addressed depression and PTSD among children in the three provinces.

In February 2005, PTSD symptoms were noted in 13% of the children living in camps for the displaced, in 11% of children from tsunami-affected villages who had not lost their homes, and in 6% of children from villages not affected by the tsunami.

The survey found that the children most likely to be suffering from PTSD fell into three broad groups: those who had spent some time in disaster zones before being evacuated; those who felt that their own life or those of family members had been in serious danger during the tsunami; and those who had experienced extreme panic or fear at the time of the tsunami.

Depression was found to be more prevalent among older children who felt that their own or a family member’s life had been in danger.

Disturbingly, a follow-up survey in September 2005 found no significant fall in the percentage of children suffering from either PTSD or depression.

Phuket News

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