Nav: Home

Early treatment for PTSD after a disaster has lasting effects

February 14, 2020

In 1988, a 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck near the northern Armenian city of Spitak. The temblor destroyed cities and is estimated to have killed between 25,000 and 35,000 people, many of whom were schoolchildren.

The latest findings from a long-term, UCLA-led study reveal that children who survived the quake and received psychotherapy soon after have experienced health benefits into adulthood.

The findings are particularly relevant today, said Dr. Armen Goenjian, the study's lead author and a researcher at the Jane and Terry Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, given the increased frequency and severity of climate-related catastrophes such as hurricanes and wildfires.

This ongoing project is one of the first long-term studies to follow survivors of a natural disaster who experienced post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, more than five years after the event. The research tracks PTSD and depression symptoms in people who received psychotherapy as children, as well as those who did not.

The latest findings, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, also identified factors that contributed to the risk for PTSD and depression among the Spitak quake survivors, including whether their homes were destroyed, the severity of adversity they faced after the earthquake and whether they had chronic medical illnesses after the quake. People who experienced strong social support were less likely to develop PTSD and depression.

"The association of persistent PTSD and depression with chronic medical illnesses points to the need for targeted outreach services across physical and behavioral health systems," said Goenjian, who is also director of the Armenian Relief Society Clinics in Armenia.

The researchers evaluated 164 survivors who were 12 to 14 years old in 1990, about a year and a half year after the earthquake. Of that group, 94 lived in the city of Gumri, which experienced substantial destruction and thousands of deaths. The other 70 lived in Spitak, where the damage was far more severe and there was a higher rate of death.

A few weeks after the initial assessment, mental health workers provided trauma- and grief-focused psychotherapy in some schools in Gumri, but not in others because of a shortage of trained medical staff.

"We were comparing two devastated cities that had different levels of post-earthquake adversities," Goenjian said. "People in Spitak, who experienced more destruction, earthquake-related deaths and injuries but experienced fewer post-earthquake adversities, had a better recovery from PTSD and depression than survivors in Gumri."

Researchers interviewed survivors five and 25 years after the earthquake. They found that people from Gumri who received psychotherapy had significantly greater improvements in both their depression and PTSD symptoms. On the 80-point PTSD-Reaction Index, for example, PTSD scores for the Gumri group that received psychotherapy dropped from an average of 44 a year and a half after the earthquake to 31 after 25 years.

PTSD scores for people from Gumri who did not receive treatment declined as well, but not as much: from 43 at one-and-a-half years to 36 after 25 years.

Overall, people from Spitak had more severe PTSD and depression after the earthquake. Because they experienced fewer ongoing challenges, such as shortage of heat, electricity, housing and transportation, they tended to show greater improvements in their PTSD symptoms compared to both Gumri groups. The PTSD symptoms for Spitak survivors fell from 53 at one-and-a-half years to 39 after 25 years.

"The takeaway is that school-based screening of children for post-traumatic stress reactions and depression, along with providing trauma and grief-focused therapy after a major disaster is strongly recommended," Goenjian said.
-end-


University of California - Los Angeles Health Sciences

Related Depression Articles:

Children with social anxiety, maternal history of depression more likely to develop depression
Although researchers have known for decades that depression runs in families, new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York, suggests that children suffering from social anxiety may be at particular risk for depression in the future.
Depression and use of marijuana among US adults
This study examined the association of depression with cannabis use among US adults and the trends for this association from 2005 to 2016.
Maternal depression increases odds of depression in offspring, study shows
Depression in mothers during and after pregnancy increased the odds of depression in offspring during adolescence and adulthood by 70%.
Targeting depression: Researchers ID symptom-specific targets for treatment of depression
For the first time, physician-scientists at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center have identified two clusters of depressive symptoms that responded to two distinct neuroanatomical treatment targets in patients who underwent transcranial magnetic brain stimulation (TMS) for treatment of depression.
A biological mechanism for depression
Researchers report that in depressed individuals there are increased amounts of an unmodified structural protein, called tubulin, in lipid rafts compared with non-depressed individuals.
Depression in adults who are overweight or obese
In an analysis of primary care records of 519,513 UK adults who were overweight or obese between 2000-2016 and followed up until 2019, the incidence of new cases of depression was 92 per 10,000 people per year.
Why stress doesn't always cause depression
Rats susceptible to anhedonia, a core symptom of depression, possess more serotonin neurons after being exposed to chronic stress, but the effect can be reversed through amygdala activation, according to new research in JNeurosci.
Which comes first: Smartphone dependency or depression?
New research suggests a person's reliance on his or her smartphone predicts greater loneliness and depressive symptoms, as opposed to the other way around.
Depression breakthrough
Major depressive disorder -- referred to colloquially as the 'black dog' -- has been identified as a genetic cause for 20 distinct diseases, providing vital information to help detect and manage high rates of physical illnesses in people diagnosed with depression.
CPAP provides relief from depression
Researchers have found that continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) treatment of obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) can improve depression symptoms in patients suffering from cardiovascular diseases.
More Depression News and Depression Current Events

Trending Science News

Current Coronavirus (COVID-19) News

Top Science Podcasts

We have hand picked the top science podcasts of 2020.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Listen Again: IRL Online
Original broadcast date: March 20, 2020. Our online lives are now entirely interwoven with our real lives. But the laws that govern real life don't apply online. This hour, TED speakers explore rules to navigate this vast virtual space.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#573 Penis. That's It. That's the title.
This episode is about penises. That was your content warning. Penises. Where they came from. Why they're useful. And the many, many wild things that animals do with them. Come for the world's oldest penis, stay for the creature that ejaculates 80 percent of its bodyweight. Host Bethany Brookshire talks with Emily Willingham about her new book, "Phallacy: Life Lessons from the Animal Penis".
Now Playing: Radiolab

Falling
There are so many ways to fall–in love, asleep, even flat on your face. This hour, Radiolab dives into stories of great falls.  We jump into a black hole, take a trip over Niagara Falls, upend some myths about falling cats, and plunge into our favorite songs about falling. Support Radiolab by becoming a member today at Radiolab.org/donate.