The risk of PTSD and depression after an airplane crash and its potential association with physical injury: A longitudinal study

Injury. 2016 Jan;47(1):250-6. doi: 10.1016/j.injury.2015.07.005. Epub 2015 Jul 13.


In 2009, a commercial airplane crashed near Amsterdam. This longitudinal study aims to investigate (1) the proportion of survivors of the airplane crash showing a probable posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD) or depressive disorder, and (2) whether symptoms of PTSD and depression were predicted by trauma characteristics. Identifying these trauma characteristics is crucial for early detection and treatment. Of the 121 adult survivors, 82 participated in this study 2 months after the crash and 76 participated 9 months after the crash. Risk for PTSD and depression was measured with the self-report instruments Trauma Screening Questionnaire and Patient Health Questionnaire-2. Trauma characteristics assessed were Injury Severity Score (ISS), hospitalisation, length of hospital stay, and seating position in the plane. Two months after the crash, 32 participants (of N=70, 46%) were at risk for PTSD and 28 (of N=80, 32%) were at risk for depression. Nine months after the crash, 35 participants (of N=75, 47%) were at risk for PTSD and 24 (of N=76, 35%) were at risk for depression. There was a moderate correlation between length of hospital stay and symptoms of PTSD and depression 9 months after the crash (r=.33 and r=.45, respectively). There were no differences in seating position between participants at high risk vs. participants at low risk for PTSD or depression. Mixed design ANOVAs showed also no association between the course of symptoms of PTSD and depression 2 and 9 months after the crash and ISS or hospitalisation. This suggests that health care providers need to be aware that survivors may be at risk for PTSD or depression, regardless of the objective severity of their physical injuries.

Keywords: Airplane crash; Depression; Hospitalisation; Injury severity; Longitudinal study; Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Aviation / psychology*
  • Accidents, Aviation / statistics & numerical data
  • Depression / epidemiology
  • Depression / etiology
  • Depression / psychology*
  • Disabled Persons / psychology*
  • Disabled Persons / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hospitalization / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Patient Acceptance of Health Care / psychology*
  • Risk Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Survivors / psychology*
  • Survivors / statistics & numerical data
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology*