Media Exposure and Prolonged Grief: A Study of Bereaved Parents and Siblings After the 2011 Utøya Island Terror Attack

Psychol Trauma. 2016 Nov;8(6):661-667. doi: 10.1037/tra0000131. Epub 2016 Mar 28.


Background: After terror attacks, the media coverage can be a potential secondary stressor for bereaved families. In the present study, we aimed to examine the level of prolonged grief (PG), and to explore the association between media exposure and PG in parents and siblings of individuals who were killed in a terror attack.

Method: Parents and siblings (n = 103) from 42 different families bereaved by the 2011 Utøya Island mass shooting participated in a survey 18 months after the attack. The survey measured the amount of media exposure experienced by the bereaved during the first month after the attack. PG was self-reported using the Inventory of Complicated Grief (ICG). Data was analyzed with multilevel methods with mixed effects models.

Results: Of the total sample of participants, 78.6% (n = 81/103) had sum scores higher than the designated cutoff >25 on ICG, indicating a probable prolonged grief disorder (PGD). Multilevel analysis showed significantly higher level of PG among those who reported high exposure to the media coverage (>4 hours daily) the first month after the attack, among females, and among those who were in contact with their son/daughter/brother/sister by telephone during the attack.

Limitations: With the cross-sectional design, caution should be taken about making interpretations about causal effects.

Conclusion: Media exposure may trigger or maintain prolonged grief reactions. (PsycINFO Database Record

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / psychology*
  • Female
  • Grief*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mass Media*
  • Middle Aged
  • Norway
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Siblings / psychology*
  • Terrorism / psychology*
  • Young Adult