Little is known about the impact of trauma in postconflict, low-income countries where people have survived multiple traumatic experiences.
To establish the prevalence rates of and risk factors for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in 4 postconflict, low-income countries.
Epidemiological survey conducted between 1997 and 1999 among survivors of war or mass violence (aged >/=16 years) who were randomly selected from community populations in Algeria (n = 653), Cambodia (n = 610), Ethiopia (n = 1200), and Gaza (n = 585).
Prevalence rates of PTSD, assessed using the PTSD module of the Composite International Diagnostic Interview version 2.1 and evaluated in relation to traumatic events, assessed using an adapted version of the Life Events and Social History Questionnaire.
The prevalence rate of assessed PTSD was 37.4% in Algeria, 28.4% in Cambodia, 15.8% in Ethiopia, and 17.8% in Gaza. Conflict-related trauma after age 12 years was the only risk factor for PTSD that was present in all 4 samples. Torture was a risk factor in all samples except Cambodia. Psychiatric history and current illness were risk factors in Cambodia (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 3.6; 95% confidence interval [CI], 2.3-5.4 and adjusted OR,1.6; 95% CI, 1.0-2.7, respectively) and Ethiopia (adjusted OR, 3.9; 95% CI, 2.0-7.4 and adjusted OR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.1-2.7, respectively). Poor quality of camp was associated with PTSD in Algeria (adjusted OR, 1.8; 95% CI, 1.3-2.5) and in Gaza (adjusted OR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.1-2.8). Daily hassles were associated with PTSD in Algeria (adjusted OR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.1-2.4). Youth domestic stress, death or separation in the family, and alcohol abuse in parents were associated with PTSD in Cambodia (adjusted OR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.1-2.6; adjusted OR, 1.7; 95% CI, 1.0-2.8; and adjusted OR, 2.2; 95% CI, 1.1-4.4, respectively).
Using the same assessment methods, a wide range of rates of symptoms of PTSD were found among 4 low-income populations who have experienced war, conflict, or mass violence. We identified specific patterns of risk factors per country. Our findings indicate the importance of contextual differences in the study of traumatic stress and human rights violations.