Full and partial PTSD among young adult survivors 10 months after the L'Aquila 2009 earthquake: gender differences

J Affect Disord. 2011 Jun;131(1-3):79-83. doi: 10.1016/j.jad.2010.11.023. Epub 2011 Jan 26.


Background: Earthquakes are one of the most frequently occurring natural disasters and extensive research has been conducted on mental disorders on exposed populations, particularly on post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). On April 6th 2009, the town of L'Aquila (Abruzzo), in central Italy, was struck by an earthquake with a strength of 5.9 on the Richter scale. In the town of L'Aquila many buildings collapsed and large parts of the town were destroyed. Overall, 309 people were killed, 1600 injured among which 200 severely injured and hospitalized, more than 65,000 people were displaced.

Methods: The aim of the present study was to investigate prevalence rates of PTSD, either full-blown or partial PTSD, among 512 students attending the last year of high school in L'Aquila about 10 months after the earthquake. According to the literature, partial PTSD was defined as the presence of symptoms in the DSM-IV Criterion B and C or D for PTSD diagnosis. Gender differences in the symptoms reported were investigated. Assessments included the Trauma and Loss Spectrum-Self Report (TALS-SR) and the Impact of Event Scale (IES).

Results: The results of the present study showed the presence of a diagnosis of PTSD in 192 (37.5%) of the students examined, with significantly (p=.000) higher rates in women than men (N=120, 51.7% and N=72, 25.7%, respectively). Moreover, 153 (29.9%) students reported partial PTSD (75, 32.3% women and 78, 27.9% men respectively). Significantly higher PTSD symptoms were reported by women with respect to men.

Limitations: The lack of information on the impact of the earthquake on subjects and on the presence of Axis I psychiatric comorbidities are two major limitations besides the use of self-report instruments.

Conclusions: Our results show high rates of full or partial PTSD in adolescents who survived the April 2009 L'Aquila earthquake, with women being the most affected. Thus, these results highlight the need to carefully explore these conditions.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adolescent
  • Chi-Square Distribution
  • Disasters* / statistics & numerical data
  • Earthquakes* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Italy / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Sex Factors
  • Statistics, Nonparametric
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Survivors / statistics & numerical data
  • Time Factors