A meta-analysis of risk factors for depression in adults and children after natural disasters

BMC Public Health (Impact Factor: 2.26). 06/2014; 14(1):623. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2458-14-623
Source: PubMed


A number of studies have shown a range of negative psychological symptoms (e.g. depression) after exposure to natural disasters. The aim of this study was to determine risk factors for depression in both children and adults who have survived natural disasters.

Four electronic databases (PubMed, Embase, Web of Science, and PsychInfo) were used to search for observational studies (case–control, cross-sectional, and cohort studies) about depression following natural disasters. The literature search, study selection, and data extraction were conducted independently by two authors. Thirty-one articles were included in the study, of which twenty included adult participants and eleven included child participants. Summary estimates were obtained using random-effects models. Subgroup analysis, sensitivity analysis, and publication bias tests were performed on the data.

The prevalence of depression after natural disasters ranged from 5.8% to 54.0% in adults and from 7.5% to 44.8% in children. We found a number of risk factors for depression after exposure to natural disasters. For adults, the significant predictors were being female ;not married;holding religious beliefs; having poor education; prior trauma; experiencing fear, injury, or bereavement during the disaster; or losing employment or property, suffering house damage as a result of the disaster. For children, the significant predictors were prior trauma; being trapped during the disaster; experiencing injury, fear, or bereavement during the disaster; witnessing injury/death during the disaster; or having poor social support.

The current analysis provides evidence of risk factors for depression in survivors of natural disasters. Further research is necessary to design interventions to improve the mental health of survivors of natural disasters.

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    • "In this study, we identified some factors consistently associated with symptom profiles of predominantly depression, predominantly PTSD, and combined PTSD-depression among earthquake survivors. These findings roughly accord with meta-analyses of risk factors for PTSD (Brewin et al., 2000) and depression following natural disasters (Tang et al., 2014), and highlight the importance of early preventions, identifications and treatments targeting high-risk individuals, especially those who are older, female, at high levels of exposure severity, and experienced some specific earthquake-related exposures, including being trapped under rubble, witnessing a death of someone, traumatic death of a family member, and losing livelihood due to the disaster. Notably, some factors were specifically related to certain symptom profiles, which provides evidence for the differences in predictions of specific symptom presentations of PTSD and depression, and suggests the specific identifications of individuals at high risk for PTSD and/or depression. "
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