The new systematic review on long term mental health trajectories after disasters and pandemics
Mental health challenges are of significant concern for everyone after a disaster. This World Mental Health Day, it is crucial to remember that these challenges aren’t just in the immediate aftermath, but often become a chronic condition, especially for children and adolescents.
A new study funded by the WHO Kobe Centre (WKC) proves the devastating impact of emergencies and disasters on mental health many years after the disaster has happened. Pulling together the results of over 200 studies done in English, Chinese, and Japanese, a multinational team led by Dr Elizabeth A. Newnham of Curtin University has shown that depression and anxiety rates remain elevated for years following a disaster, with significantly higher rates for children and adolescents.
“On average, 24% of people affected by disasters will develop clinically significant post-traumatic stress syndrome (PTSS) in the first six months following exposure, 28% will develop depressive symptoms, and 23% will develop anxiety.”
The first multilingual systematic review of its kind, it finds that mental health rates showed a gradual improvement over time, but trajectories varied by disorder. Prevalence of PTSS significantly improved in the years following exposure, and the trajectory of recovery did not differ by age.
However, prevalence of depression and anxiety symptoms remained elevated for years following disasters, and children and adolescents reported significantly higher rates compared to adults both right after the disaster as well as years afterwards.
“These findings augment calls for sustainable systems of mental healthcare to be established in disaster-affected settings, with specific attention to child and adolescent psychological needs”
The study signals that tailored interventions are needed to address high levels of PTSS, depression and anxiety in the earlier stages of recovery, with continued attention to depression and anxiety among trauma-affected populations in the years following disaster.
The study signals that tailored interventions are needed to address high levels of PTSS, depression and anxiety in the earlier stages of recovery, with continued attention to depression and anxiety among trauma-affected populations in the years following disaster
Find the study here.
Hear from the lead researcher, Dr Elizabeth A. Newnham of Curtin University
Elizabeth A. Newnham, Enrique L.P. Mergelsberg, Yanyu Chen, Yoshiharu Kim, Lisa Gibbs, Peta L. Dzidic, Makiko Ishida DaSilva, Emily Y.Y. Chan, Kanji Shimomura, Zui Narita, Zhe Huang, Jennifer Leaning, Long term mental health trajectories after disasters and pandemics: A multilingual systematic review of prevalence, risk and protective factors, Clinical Psychology Review, Volume 97, 2022.
School of Population Health, Curtin University
Curtin enAble Institute
Asia Pacific Disaster Mental Health Network