Predictors of temporal patterns of psychiatric distress during 10 years following the nuclear accident at Three Mile Island

Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 1993 Apr;28(2):49-55. doi: 10.1007/BF00802091.


The present study examines psychiatric symptom levels during a 10-year period in a community sample of mothers of young children. All were identified in the early aftermath of the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident, and followed through the accident's 1989 anniversary. Cluster analysis was used to identify long-term distress profiles during the study period; women's temporal profiles were found to be either (a) stable and at low, clinically nonsignificant levels of distress across all measurement points or (b) at consistently elevated, clinically significant levels that varied with the timing of postaccident events such as the restart of the undamaged reactor and the 10th anniversary. Subsequent multivariate analyses indicated that preaccident characteristics, as well as parameters reflecting respondents' initial involvement with, and reactions to the accident, were important for distinguishing between women within the two temporal profile groups. Implications of the results for both policy formulation and continued research on significant environmental stressors is discussed.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents / psychology*
  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Nuclear Reactors*
  • Pennsylvania
  • Personality Inventory
  • Power Plants*
  • Pregnancy
  • Radiation Injuries / psychology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*