A prospective study of depression and posttraumatic stress symptoms after a natural disaster: the 1989 Loma Prieta Earthquake

J Pers Soc Psychol. 1991 Jul;61(1):115-21. doi: 10.1037//0022-3514.61.1.115.


Measures of emotional health and styles of responding to negative moods were obtained for 137 students 14 days before the Loma Prieta earthquake. A follow-up was done 10 days again 7 weeks after the earthquake to test predictions about which of the students would show the most enduring symptoms of depression and posttraumatic stress. Regression analysis showed that students who, before the earthquake, already had elevated levels of depression and stress symptoms and a ruminative style of responding to their symptoms had more depression and stress symptoms for both follow-ups. Students who were exposed to more dangerous or difficult circumstances because of the earthquake also had elevated symptom levels 10 days after the earthquake. Similarly, students who, during the 10 days after the earthquake, had more ruminations about the earthquake were still more likely to have high levels of depressive and stress symptoms 7 weeks after the earthquake.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological*
  • Adjustment Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Adjustment Disorders / psychology
  • Adult
  • California
  • Disasters*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Internal-External Control
  • Male
  • Personality Tests
  • Prospective Studies
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology