Mental health in Syrian children with a focus on post-traumatic stress: a cross-sectional study from Syrian schools

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2018 Nov;53(11):1231-1239. doi: 10.1007/s00127-018-1573-3. Epub 2018 Aug 6.

Abstract

Purpose: Studies show that conflict can negatively affect psychological health. The Syrian crisis is 8 years old and yet little is known about the impact of the conflict on the well-being of Syrians who remain. This gap was addressed by conducting an empirical study on the mental health burden of Syrian children in two areas of the country.

Methods: 492 children between 8 and 15 years were randomly selected from schools in Damascus and Latakia. The incidence of psychological disorder symptoms was measured using self-report screening instruments, the Children's Revised Impact of Event Scale (CRIES-8) and the Revised Children's Anxiety and Depression Scale (RCADS-25). Simultaneously, sociodemographic and traumatic event information was collected. Binary logistic regression was used to identify factors that influence the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

Results: In our sample, 50.2% of students were internally displaced and 32.1% reported a negative experience. 60.5% of those tested had at least one probable psychological disorder with PTSD the most common (35.1%), followed by depression (32.0%), and anxiety (29.5%). Binary logistic regression indicated that PTSD symptoms were predicted by: living in Damascus [odds ratio (OR) 2.36, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.51-3.69], being female (1.54, 1.02-2.34), having depression and anxiety (2.55, 1.48-4.40), and the negative experiences; displacement and daily warzone exposure (1.84, 1.02-3.30 and 2.67, 1.08-6.60).

Conclusions: Syrian children are experiencing traumatic events and war-associated daily stresses that are hugely impacting psychological well-being. Our data offer guidance for mental health providers regarding risk factors and highlights the use of the school system to reach suffering children.

Keywords: Anxiety; Depression; PTSD; Risk factors; War trauma.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anxiety Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Child
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Risk Factors
  • Schools / statistics & numerical data*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress, Psychological / psychology
  • Syria / epidemiology