Before and after the 1999 Chi-Chi earthquake: traumatic events and depressive symptoms in an older population

Soc Sci Med. 2006 Jun;62(12):3121-32. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2005.11.059. Epub 2006 Jan 19.


Natural disasters, such as earthquakes, can have deleterious consequences for physical and psychological health. In this study, we investigate variability in resilience to depressive symptoms in the aftermath of a massive earthquake that struck Taiwan in 1999. We analyze data on 1160 older individuals from a national, longitudinal survey with interviews before and after the earthquake. This survey contains extensive information on physical and cognitive function, depressive symptoms, socio-demographic characteristics and earthquake-related exposure and experiences. We estimate regression models to identify risk factors associated with the presence of depressive symptoms after the disaster, controlling for health status and the presence of depressive symptoms beforehand. We pay special attention to how socio-demographic factors moderate the psychological impact of the earthquake. Results indicate that persons of low socioeconomic status (SES), socially isolated individuals, and women reported higher levels of depressive symptoms than their respective counterparts, as did persons who experienced damage to their homes. The psychological effects of damage were strongest among those aged 54-70. The findings suggest that people who experience damage to their home during a disaster are at risk of experiencing depressive symptoms, with the elderly being more resilient than the near-elderly.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Activities of Daily Living / psychology
  • Age Factors
  • Aged
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / etiology
  • Disasters*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Sickness Impact Profile
  • Social Class
  • Social Environment
  • Social Isolation
  • Social Support
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Taiwan / epidemiology