The long-term impact of physical and emotional trauma: the station nightclub fire

PLoS One. 2012;7(10):e47339. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0047339. Epub 2012 Oct 15.

Abstract

Background: Survivors of physical and emotional trauma experience enduring occupational, psychological and quality of life impairments. Examining survivors from a large fire provides a unique opportunity to distinguish the impact of physical and emotional trauma on long-term outcomes. The objective is to detail the multi-dimensional long-term effects of a large fire on its survivor population and assess differences in outcomes between survivors with and without physical injury.

Methods and findings: This is a survey-based cross-sectional study of survivors of The Station fire on February 20, 2003. The relationships between functional outcomes and physical injury were evaluated with multivariate regression models adjusted for pre-injury characteristics and post-injury outcomes. Outcome measures include quality of life (Burn Specific Health Scale-Brief), employment (time off work), post-traumatic stress symptoms (Impact of Event Scale-Revised) and depression symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory). 104 fire survivors completed the survey; 47% experienced a burn injury. There was a 42% to 72% response rate range. Although depression and quality of life were associated with burn injury in univariate analyses (p<0.05), adjusted analyses showed no significant relationship between burn injury and these outcomes (p = 0.91; p = .51). Post-traumatic stress symptoms were not associated with burn injury in the univariate (p = 0.13) or adjusted analyses (p = 0.79). Time off work was the only outcome in which physical injury remained significant in the multivariate analysis (p = 0.03).

Conclusions: Survivors of this large fire experienced significant life disruption, including occupational, psychological and quality of life sequelae. The findings suggest that quality of life, depression and post-traumatic stress outcomes are related to emotional trauma, not physical injury. However, physical injury is correlated with employment outcomes. The long-term impact of this traumatic event underscores the importance of longitudinal and mental health care for trauma survivors, with attention to those with and without physical injuries.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Burns / psychology
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Emotions
  • Female
  • Fires*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Quality of Life
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Wounds and Injuries / physiopathology
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology*

Grant support

This project was supported by a pilot grant from the International Association of Fire Fighters. The funders had no role in the study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.