Background: Little is known about the long-term impact of the killing of a parent in childhood or adolescence during war on distress and disability in young adulthood. This study assessed current prevalence rates of mental disorders and levels of dysfunction among young adults who had lost their father due to war-related violence in childhood or adolescence.
Methods: 179 bereaved young adults and 175 non-bereaved young adults were interviewed a decade after experiencing the war in Kosovo. Prevalence rates of Major Depressive Episode (MDE), anxiety, and substance use disorders, and current suicide risk were assessed using the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview. The syndrome of Prolonged Grief Disorder (PGD) was assessed with the Prolonged Grief Disorder Interview (PG-13). Somatic symptoms were measured with the Patient Health Questionnaire. General health distress was assessed with the General Health Questionnaire.
Findings: Bereaved participants were significantly more likely to suffer from either MDE or any anxiety disorder than non-bereaved participants (58.7% vs. 40%). Among bereaved participants, 39.7% met criteria for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, 34.6% for PGD, and 22.3% for MDE. Bereaved participants with PGD were more likely to suffer from MDE, any anxiety disorder, or current suicide risk than bereaved participants without PGD. Furthermore, these participants reported significantly greater physical distress than bereaved participants without PGD.
Conclusion: War-related loss during middle childhood and adolescence presents significant risk for adverse mental health and dysfunction in young adulthood in addition to exposure to other war-related traumatic events. Furthermore, the syndrome of PGD can help to identify those with the greatest degree of distress and dysfunction.