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Thailand vacationers’ health 14 months after the tsunami

When asked, one quarter of Swedes who were in Southeast Asia during the tsunami reported impaired mental well-being fourteen months after the disaster.

This is shown in a comprehensive follow-up carried out at the National Center for Disaster Psychiatry at Uppsala University in Sweden, in collaboration with representatives from the Stockholm County Council and the Karolinska Institute. The report also shows that relatives, friends, workmates, and neighbors provided the most important help when the travelers returned home.

A large proportion (78%) of those who responded were in a place hit by the tsunami. Among these individuals, 41 percent perceived their situation as life-threatening, and 27 wound up in the water. The most common explanation for why they each survived is that it was simply happenstance, that they were lucky. Nearly all of them report that they were afraid another tsunami wave would come. One fourth were experiencing disturbances in their mental well-being at the time of the questionnaire. In total, ten percent show signs of post-traumatic stress reactions such as recurrent memories, nightmares, avoidance behavior, concentration problems, and sleeping problems. This proportion increases among individuals who had had their lives threatened, been physically injured, or lost a loved one. This latter group will be specially targeted in coming reports.

The assistance these people were most satisfied with before leaving Southeast Asia was provided by the local people, close friends and relatives, other disaster victims, local health-care staff, and Swedish volunteers. They were less satisfied with aid efforts from the Swedish authorities. After returning to Sweden, alongside their own resources, what was the most important factor in coping with the stress was support from close friends and relatives. If individuals actively sought help, it was primarily from crisis groups and family doctors, as well as social workers and psychologists at care centers. Only a few turned to psychiatry. Private psychotherapy and support from ministers was especially appreciated. The respondents also report that they were highly satisfied with the support offered at Arlanda Airport and the reception provided to those who lost loved ones at Ärna Airport in connection with the return of the remains of victims. Many individuals were also satisfied with the support they received from insurance companies.

These results constitute a first report, based on responses from nearly 5,000 individuals. They answered a questionnaire sent to more than 10,000 people fourteen months after the tsunami. The study was performed by the three largest county councils/regions: Stockholm, Western Götaland (surrounding Göteborg), and Region Skåne (surrounding Malmö) as well as seven other county councils. The response rate was highest in Blekinge. The study was carried out by the National Center for Disaster Psychiatry at Uppsala University in collaboration with the Unit for Crisis and Disaster Psychology at the Stockholm County Council and the Department of Medical Epidemiology and Statistics at the Karolinska Institute.

The report can be read (in Swedish) at:

Anneli Waara | alfa
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