How Quake Survivors Must Deal with Lasting Trauma
Research has confirmed that natural hazards such as the magnitude 7.8 temblor in Turkey-Syria lead to acute trauma and an increased risk for chronic conditions such as anxiety and depression in survivors. Psychiatrist and senior lecturer in the department of psychological medicine at the University of Otago Ben Beaglehole and his colleagues have studied the mental health impacts of the 2010-2011 Canterbury earthquakes as part of a 40-plus-year study measuring the health and development of a cohort of more than 1200 people born in the late 1970s. Senior editor Tanya Lewis investigates for Scientific American.
The researchers found an increase in the rates of anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder and nicotine dependence one year after the quakes, and this increase was correlated with greater exposure to the events. In other words, the closer a person was to the quakes’ most severe effects, the more likely they were to have a mental health disorder.
Scientific American spoke with Beaglehole about how deadly earthquakes and their aftermath affect mental health, the role of socioeconomic factors and cultural setting, and the factors that increase resilience and post-traumatic growth.
“When you think of an earthquake’s effects, you may think earthquakes have an indiscriminate or uniform effect on everybody. But in reality, if you live in a poor part of town, your buildings are more likely to be destroyed,” Beaglehole says.
Original article by Tanya Lewis, Scientific American, February 17, 2023.