Natural Disasters

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Psychological Consequences of Earthquakes

Natural disasters, such as earthquakes, hurricanes and cyclones, floods, and tornadoes are some of the traumatic experiences that may cause posttraumatic stress disorders. This type of disorders and other disaster related psychological problems are prevalent after natural disasters. As a result it is important to analyse those individuals that develop psychological problems especially to prepare and plan interventions both in the short and long term after disaster (Coşkun, Coşkun, 2000, p: 68). Earthquakes have quickly become one of the most highlighted natural disasters. Unlike other natural disasters, earthquakes occur without warning, the impact is widespread and severe, and the effects often persist long after (Chen et al., 2007). Earthquakes are life threatening, unpredictable and uncontrollable phenomena that can cause widespread devastation and expose thousands of people to sudden bereavement, injury, loss of property, homelessness, and displacement (Livanou et al., 2004 p: 137). Thus the most common psychiatric conditions see among earthquake survivors are most traumatic stress disorder (post traumatic stress disorder) and depression (Salcioglu et al., 2007 p: 115), anxiety, sleep disorders, and substance abuse (Chen et al., 2007). In this essay I will cover the psychological consequences of an earthquake, how individuals react towards the risks involved in them.

The most commonly reported post traumatic stress disorder risk factors among earthquake survivors include; female gender and severity of earthquake experience have consistently been found to relate to worse psychological outcomes after earthquake (Armenian et al, 2000, p:58). On the other hand other reported predictors of post earthquake psychological problems are loss of close ones (Armenian et al, 2000), older age at trauma (Lewin et al, 1998 p: 20 ), lower education (Başoğlu et al, 2002, p: 269 ), previous trauma (Goenjian et al, 1994, p: 895), neuroticism (Lewin et al, 1998), family history of psychiatric disorders (Başoğlu et al, 2002), ethnicity (Webster et al., 1995, p: 390), being single or windowed (Lima et al., 1989, p: 74), property or resource loss (Armenian et al., 200), being alone during earthquake (Armenian et al., 200), avoidance type coping (Webster et al., 1995), lower social support (Bland et al., 1997 p: 188), and stressful life events (Lewin et al., 1998). In the mean time some other studies reported that female gender, past psychiatric illness, death of a family member (Livanou et al., 2002 ), financial loss, not receiving assistance and post disaster support (Armenian et al., 2002), as significant predictors of depression in earthquake survivors. Scrutiny of post traumatic stress disorder and depression risk factors is important in selecting appropriate treatment approaches for disaster survivors suffering from these psychiatric conditions (Salcioglu et al., 2007 p:117).

On 17th August 1999, an earthquake measuring 7.4 Richter scale in Turkey, reported by the Government Crisis Centre, more than 95.000 houses were reduced to rubble or severely damaged and 18.243 people died. The earthquake left some 250.000 people homeless and incurred a loss of USD 20 billion in property and production (Salcioglu et al., 2007). Altogether, 27.634 household were totally destroyed or heavily damaged, and 27.428 households were moderately damaged. It was estimated that 14.444.298 inhabitants living in the Marmara region were affected by the event (Government Planning Organisation of Primeminestry, 199). In previous community based studies they reported prevalence of post traumatic stress disorder and depression first among survivors relocated to temporary shelters (such as tent camps and prefabricated houses) (Başoğlu et al., 2002 p: 269). And second among those who continued to live in their own houses (Başoğlu et al., 2004 p: 133). At...
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