Assessment of psychopathological consequences in children at 3 years after tsunami disaster.
ABSTRACT At 1 year after the Tsunami disaster, 30% of students in two high risk schools at Takuapa district of Phang Nga Province still suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The number ofpatients was sharply declined after 18 months. The psychological consequences in children who diagnosed PTSD after the event were reinvestigated again at 3 years, as there were reports of significant comorbidity and continuing of subsyndromal post traumatic stress symptoms in children suffered from other disasters.
To assess psychological outcomes and factors contributed at 3-year follow up time in children diagnosed PTSD at 1-year after the Tsunami disaster
There were 45 students who were diagnosed PTSD at 1-year after the disaster At 3-year follow up time, clinical interview for psychiatric diagnosis was done by psychiatrists.
11.1% of students who had been diagnosed as PTSD at 1-year after Tsunami still had chronic PTSD and 15% had either depressive disorder or anxiety disorder 25% of students completely recovered from mental disorders. Nearly 50% ofstudents were categorized in partial remission or subsyndromal PTSD group. Factors which influenced long-term outcomes were prior history of trauma and severe physical injury from the disaster.
Although the point prevalence of PTSD in children affected by Tsunami was declined overtime, a significant number of students still suffer from post traumatic stress symptoms, depressive disorder or anxiety disorder which need psychological intervention.
- SourceAvailable from: PubMed Central[Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
ABSTRACT: On March 11, 2011, a massive undersea earthquake and tsunami struck East Japan. Few studies have investigated the impact of exposure to a natural disaster on preschool children. We investigated the association of trauma experiences during the Great East Japan Earthquake on clinically significant behavior problems among preschool children 2 years after the earthquake.PLoS ONE 01/2014; 9(10):e109342. · 3.53 Impact Factor
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ABSTRACT: To study the prevalence of substance use and associated factors in school students in Tsunami affected areas in southern Thailand.J Med Assoc Thai. 06/2014; 97(Suppl. 6):S58-S65.
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ABSTRACT: Background: On March 11, 2011, Japan was struck by a massive earthquake and tsunami. The tsunami caused tremendous damage and traumatized several people, including children. The aim of this study was to assess changes in traumatic symptoms 8, 20, and 30 months of the 2011 tsunami.PLoS ONE 10/2014; 9(10). · 3.53 Impact Factor
J Med Assoc Thai Vol. 91 Suppl. 3 2008S69
Correspondence to: Ularntinon S, Child and Adolescent
Psychiatry Department, Queen Sirikit National Institute Of Child
Health, Bangkok 10400, Thailand. E-mail: sirirat@children
Assessment of Psychopathological Consequences in
Children at 3 Years after Tsunami Disaster
Sirirat Ularntinon MD*,
Vinadda Piyasil MD*, Panom Ketumarn MD**,
Nantawat Sitdhiraksa MD**, Nuttorn Pityaratstian MD***,
Tiraya Lerthattasilp MD***, Wallapa Bunpromma MD***,
Thanvaruj Booranasuksakul MD***, Sunsanee Reuangsorn MD**,
Salakchit Teeranukul MD**, Wanrawee Pimratana MD**
* Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Department of Pediatrics,
Queen Sirikit National Institute of Child Health, College of Medicine, Rangsit University, Bangkok
** Department of Psychiatry, Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, Bangkok
*** Department of Psychiatry, King Chulalongkorn Memorial Hospital, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok
Background: At 1 year after the Tsunami disaster, 30% of students in two high risk schools at Takuapa district
of Phang Nga Province still suffered from post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The number of patients was
sharply declined after 18 months. The psychological consequences in children who diagnosed PTSD after the
event were reinvestigated again at 3 years, as there were reports of significant comorbidity and continuing of
subsyndromal post traumatic stress symptoms in children suffered from other disasters.
Objective: To assess psychological outcomes and factors contributed at 3-year follow up time in children
diagnosed PTSD at 1-year after the Tsunami disaster.
Material and Method: There were 45 students who were diagnosed PTSD at 1-year after the disaster. At 3-year
follow up time, clinical interview for psychiatric diagnosis was done by psychiatrists.
Results: 11.1% of students who had been diagnosed as PTSD at 1- year after Tsunami still had chronic PTSD
and 15% had either depressive disorder or anxiety disorder. 25% of students completely recovered from
mental disorders. Nearly 50% of students were categorized in partial remission or subsyndromal PTSD group.
Factors which influenced long-term outcomes were prior history of trauma and severe physical injury from the
Conclusion: Although the point prevalence of PTSD in children affected by Tsunami was declined overtime, a
significant number of students still suffer from post traumatic stress symptoms, depressive disorder or anxiety
disorder which need psychological intervention.
Keywords: Post-traumatic stress disorder, Tsunami victims, psychological trauma, long-term outcomes
The Tsunami Disaster occurred on December
26th, 2004, when series of giant wave hit many shores
around the Andaman Sea. In Thailand, Phang Nga
province was the most severely affected area. More
than 4,200 people died and estimated 4,000 people were
displaced(1,2). Apart from damage to physical health and
property, psychological damage especially in young
people is one of the major adverse consequences from
the incident and needs great attention, as children is
highly susceptible to negative life experiences.
From empirical review of literatures(3-5), post
disaster psychiatric morbidity in children continued
for years and presented different types of psycho-
pathology which were characterized by specific
psychological problems or disorder in Diagnostic
and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder 4th edition
J Med Assoc Thai 2008; 91 (Suppl 3): S69-75
Full text. e-Journal: http://www.medassocthai.org/journal
S70 J Med Assoc Thai Vol. 91 Suppl. 3 2008
(DSM- IV) diagnosis particularly post traumatic stress
disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety disorder , non
specific distress or subsyndromal elevation of PTSD
symptoms (re-experience, avoidance or hyperarousal
symptoms) associated with reaction to extreme stress
and externalizing behaviors. However, there were
groups of resilient children who were fully recovered
from PTSD during follow-up years.
As part of a long term mental health rehabili-
tation program for helping children affected by the
disaster, Queen Sirikit National Institute of Child Health
(QSNICH), in collaboration with Department of Psy-
chiatry, Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol University, developed
a school-based follow-up program for psychological
problems in children affected by Tsunami in 6 schools
in Takuapa district of Phang Nga and reported series
of earlier works from 2 schools (Bangmuang and
Suttinanusorn school) under the project describing
psychological findings, particularly PTSD in children
at 6 months, 1 year and 2 years after the event(6-8). The
report from other schools under this project that had
different circumstances was described elsewhere(18).
From previous study by Piyasil et al(6-8), the
prevalence of PTSD in children affected by theTsunami
disaster was gradually declined from 46.1% of total
affected students to 31.6% at the end of the first year
period, significantly decreased to 10.4% at 18 months
and dropped further to 7.6% at 2 years. Although
there were a number of reports on acute psychological
response of children and long-term follow-up of PTSD
in children from other traumatic causes, there were few
longitudinal studies concerning the long-term psycho-
logical effects associated with Tsunami-related PTSD.
To assess psychological outcomes and
factors contributed at 3-year follow-up time in children
diagnosed PTSD at 1 year after the Tsunami disaster.
Material and Method
At 1 year after the Tsunami disaster, there
were 86 students diagnosed for PTSD from Bangmuang
and Suttinanusorn school(7). However, due to relocation
of students and limitation in follow up process, only 45
students in this group were available for the study.
The data were collected on November 2007,
almost 3 years after Tsunami. The students were
interviewed by psychiatrists. The psychiatrists made
independent diagnoses for PTSD, Depressive disorder
and Anxiety disorder by using the DSM- IV criteria for
each disorder(5). The students who were still diagnosed
PTSD, will be classified as chronic PTSD. Additional
category was specified: partial remission PTSD which
refers to person who fulfilled the A (expose to traumatic
event) and E (duration of symptoms > 1 month) criteria
but did not completely fulfilled the B (re-experiencing
of the incident), C (avoidance of reminders) and/ or D
(hyperarousal response) of DSM IV criteria for PTSD.
Only students who failed to meet the criteria for PTSD,
depression, anxiety disorder and our operational
criteria for partial remission PTSD were considered to
be in complete remission.
Data are summarized with descriptive statis-
tics, reported as raw number and proportion for
categorical variables, as means and SD for numerical
variables and compared by independent t-test and
ANOVA. Comparison of categorical variables was
accomplished using Chi-square (substituting Fisher-
exact testing when expected cell sizes were less than
5). Significant value is set at 0.05.
Characteristics of students (Table 1)
Table 1 shows characteristics of students, of
the forty- five students studied, 46% are male and 53%
are female with mean age of 11.35 years (SD = 2.37 yrs),
the mean age at the incident was 8 years old. There was
33 students in primary school (included 5 in pre school)
and 12 students in junior high school.
Regarding types of Tsunami exposure
experiences, 23 students had no direct exposure by
themselves but have other experiences related to the
devastating effects of Tsunami.
Eight students were trapped in the waves and
eight were exposed in life threatening scales. Eleven
students had serious physical injury. Thirty-six
students lost their family members with mean number
of family members’ death in the event at 2.8 and
maximum of 10 deaths in 2 families. Houses of sixteen
students in this group were totally destroyed in the
incident as shown in Table 1.
Psychiatric outcomes of students at 3- year after
Tsunami (Table 2)
At 3-year after the disaster, 45 out of 86
students diagnosed PTSD at 1 year after the disaster,
were followed up. There were 12 students (24.4 %) who
J Med Assoc Thai Vol. 91 Suppl. 3 2008S71
Comparison of sociodemographic variables (Table 3)
From this study, only 2 factors contribute to
different outcome at 3- year after disaster (recovery vs
chronic impairment); physical injury from tsunami and
history of previous trauma (p < 0.05) . There were no
difference between groups in other variables (p > 0.05)
The study demonstrates that children who
had been diagnosed as PTSD at first year after
Tsunami disaster still exhibited a wide range of post
traumatic emotional symptoms. We found that there
was high association between chronic PTSD and
major depressive disorder. This is the same as the other
studies(9). The correlation varied from 13-75%. The
results emphasize the importance of looking for
comorbidities in post disaster psychiatric surveys.
This study is not an epidemiologic survey, hence, we
did not study PTSD and depressive disorder in all
students, only the students diagnosed PTSD at 1 year
after Tsunami disaster were studied. However, from
previous study of PTSD in natural disaster(10), 90 % of
cases will emerge before 1 year.
Although we had no data of 3-year follow-up
of PTSD in students suffered from the Tsunami incidents
from other schools, the rate of PTSD in 2 selected
schools, of which our psychiatrists and school psycho-
logists’ team offered psychological intervention and
long-term rehabilitation program from 2 weeks after
the incident until 3 years, was gradually lower. We
believed that the lower prevalence of PTSD in these
2 schools might be the result of our program which
included screening for high risk group, early interven-
tion, continuous support and coordination with the
teachers(3-5). Further report from other groups of
children which underwent the same disaster, but had
different circumstances after the event, are needed in
order to emphasize the impact of early intervention,
particular in high risk group or high impact schools
as it has been reported that post disaster psycho-
social support influences the long term psychiatric
Corresponding with previous study about
natural course of PTSD in adolescents(14) , almost one
half of the sample with full DSM IV PTSD at baseline
remained symptomatic for more than 3 years and
categorized as partial remission PTSD at follow-up
period. It needs to be explored in long-term study,
whether these results are stable in the longer course
of illness, or are there tincture of time or natural
Itemsn = 45
Age (mean) 11.35 (SD = 2.37)
Age at event (mean) 8.31 (SD = 2.4)
Gender:Male 21 (46.66 %)
Female 24 (53.33 %)
Religious: Buddhist42 (93.33 %)
Other 3 (6.66 %)
Education: Primary school33 (73.33%)
High school12 (26.66%)
Previous history of trauma 4 (8.8 %)
No direct exposure23 (51.1%)
Witness the event and 6 (13.3%)
death of others
trapped in the waves 8 (17.77%)
Life threatening scale 8 (17.77%)
Being physically injured11 (24%)
Having death in family36 (80%)
Index of post Tsunami adversities:
House destruction16 (35.5 %)
Loss of property21 (46.6 %)
Separate from parents/ 3 (6.6 %)
living in foster home
Table 1. Students characteristics
Psychological outcomesn = 45
Psychiatric disorderTotal = 12
Chronic PTSD 5(1)
Depressive disorder 5(2)
Anxiety Disorder 5(3)
Partial remission PTSD21 (46.66%)
Fully Recovery 12 (24.44%)
(1) = 2 cases had comorbidity with major depressive disorder,
1 case had separation anxiety disorder
(2) = 2 cases had comorbidity with chronic PTSD, 2 cases had
partial remission PTSD
(3) = 3 cases had symptoms of separation anxiety disorder,
2 cases had partial remission PTSD
Table 2. Psychiatric outcome at 3 years after Tsunami in
children who had been diagnosed as PTSD at 1 year
still had psychiatric disorder, 5 for chronic PTSD, 5 for
depressive disorder and 5 for anxiety disorder. Some
students had more than 1 diagnosis.
Twenty-one students (46.66%) had partial
remission PTSD (clinical improvement with some
residual symptoms), and there were only 12 students
(24.44%) who had full recovery after 3 years.
S72J Med Assoc Thai Vol. 91 Suppl. 3 2008
attenuation. We speculate that the continuing high
level of symptoms in children were related not only
to unavoidable exposure to “ reminders “of natural
disaster but also due to the process after trauma, for
example, unemployment of parents, immigrants from
other area, traumatic reminders such as warning sirens
or signs and continuing adversity in the family. These
factors had been interpreted and many times stated by
children themselves as enduring secondary stressors.
While a disaster may be well circumscribed in time and
quickly dissipates, the enduring effects, associated with
the destruction of a community and the reminder of the
trauma, continue to have an impact on the victims.
Regarding factors that lead to chronic impair-
ment versus recovery from PTSD, the relationship of
traumatic event and PTSD involves interaction among
The exposure-experience was found to be one
of the most important factors in the development of
psychiatric symptoms. The exposure experience can
be measured by an objective measure and subjective
appraisal, which we chose the objective measure. And
our findings is corresponded with the past study(16,17),
which found that the risk factors best predicted con-
tinuing post traumatic symptomatology was degree of
life threat and past history of trauma. There are no age
and gender differences in development of chronic
disorder in this study.
It is important to note the limitations associ-
ated with small sample sizes and the limits of generaliza-
tion. In addition, we did not have information on various
factors related to development of chronic impairment
rather than recovery from psychopathology in victims
such as pre-tsunami psychiatric morbidity, individual
vulnerable factors, data related to family circumstances
after the event also was limited in this study. Data in
long-term follow-up periods might help us see a clearer
picture of students in the transitional period between
recovery or evolving into other forms of psychopatho-
logy and which vulnerable factors moderate all these
processes in order to provide appropriate mental health
care in high risk population. Furthermore, a variety of
mental health aspects as previously indicated in many
studies as long-term outcomes of victims of trauma;
somatoform, panic disorder, phobia and substance
abuse, but have not been identified in this study.
However, this is just a preliminary report in limited popu-
lation about long-term course of Tsunami disaster-
related PTSD in children. Further study, particularly
longitudinal studies in larger populations, is needed in
order to develop long-term mental health programs to
boost protective factors in these high risk children.
A considerable proportion of children, diag-
nosed as PTSD at 1 year after Tsunami, still suffer
from various post traumatic stress symptoms. Most
common reported symptoms are in avoidance criteria.
Twenty-five percent of the patients have full recovery
at 3-year after the incident. Factors that influenced
the outcomes are the history of previous trauma and
Items Chronic disorder Partial remission Fully recoveryp-value
(n = 12) (n = 21) (n = 12)(p < 0.05)
Age (mean)11.33 (SD = 3.11) 10.68 (SD = 1.93) 12.72 (SD = 1.79) 0.063
Gender: Male 8 8 50.238
Female 414 6
Previous history of trauma 3 0 1 0.035
No direct exposure 414 50.294
Witness the event and death of others 1 3 2
Trapped in the event 2 3 3
Life threatening exposure 5 2 1
Being physically injured 6 2 3 0.027
Having death in family 3 5 10.892
Index of post tsunami adversities:
House destruction 2 9 50.263
Loss of property 9 9 3 0.461
Separate from parents/living in foster home 0 3 0
Table 3. Relationship between predisposing factors and outcomes at 3-year post event
J Med Assoc Thai Vol. 91 Suppl. 3 2008S73
We would like to thank the Directors of
Bangmuang and Suttinanusorn School for their co-
operation in this long-term project and all their effort
to help children affected by the Tsunami disaster.
We also wish to thank our school psycho-
logist team for their assistance in data-collecting
process, Dr. Wiboon Kanjanapattanakul for his
assistance in statistical analysis. We are grateful to
Dr.Vandee Ningsanond, Director of Queen Sirikit
National Institute of Child Health, Ministry of Public
Health, Thailand and Prof. Dr. Teerawat Kulthanan,
Dean of Faculty of Medicine, Siriraj Hospital, Mahidol
University for funding support of this project and their
support of the field investigation.
PTSD, Post traumatic stress disorders;
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