War trauma and PTSD in Ukraine's civilian population: comparing urban-dwelling to internally displaced persons

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2022 Sep;57(9):1807-1816. doi: 10.1007/s00127-021-02176-9. Epub 2021 Oct 1.


Introduction: War in Ukraine started in March 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea and continues today in the Donbass region of Eastern Ukraine. Over 1.5 million people in these regions have been displaced from their homes. We conducted this study 36 months after the conflict began and interviewed civilians residing in Ukraine.

Purpose: This study examines the prevalence of exposure to war trauma, rates of PTSD by symptom clusters, and whether socio-demographic factors are associated with positive scores for PTSD among civilian urban-dwelling and internally displaced persons in Ukraine during the ongoing conflict in its Donbass region.

Methods: Face-to-face interviews were conducted using a multi-stage random sample of the general population in two large cities (Kharkiv and Lviv) in Ukraine (n = 1247) and a purposive sample of internally displaced persons (n = 300), half living in each city. Exposure to trauma, symptom clusters for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and overall PTSD were assessed.

Results: We found widespread direct exposure to conflict-related traumatic events (65%) among internally displaced people (IDPs) compared to a sizable minority (23%) of urban-dwelling people (UDPs). We found elevated prevalence of PTSD symptoms that were also uniformly spread within several socio-demographic factors. There were, however, significant differences in PTSD between (1) IDPs compared to UDPs and (2) those UDPs with Ukrainian compared to Russian ethnic identity, the former of each pair showing increased likelihoods of positive PTSD scores.

Conclusions: Ukraine's adult civilians, enduring the prolonged engagement in war with Russia and Russian separatists, have elevated rates of PTSD. Moreover, those who have been displaced by the ongoing conflict (IDPs) have significantly higher levels of PTSD compared to UDPs.

Keywords: Civilians; Ethnic identity; Internally displaced persons (IDPs); Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); Russia; Ukraine; War.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Humans
  • Refugees*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / epidemiology
  • Syndrome
  • Ukraine / epidemiology
  • Urban Population