One-year follow-up of survivors of a mass shooting

Am J Psychiatry. 1997 Dec;154(12):1696-702. doi: 10.1176/ajp.154.12.1696.


Objective: This report describes a 1-year follow-up study of survivors of a mass shooting incident. Acute-phase data from this incident were previously reported in this journal.

Method: The Diagnostic Interview Schedule/Disaster Supplement was used to assess 136 survivors at 1-2 months and again a year later, with a 91% reinterview rate.

Results: In the acute postdisaster period, 28% of subjects met criteria for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and 18% of subjects qualified for another active psychiatric diagnosis. At follow-up, 24% of subjects reported a history of postdisaster PTSD (17% were currently symptomatic), and 12% another current psychiatric disorder. Half (54%) of all 46 individuals identified as having had PTSD at either interview were recovered at follow-up, and no index predictors of recovery were identified. There were no cases of delayed-onset PTSD (beyond 6 months). Considerable discrepancy in identified PTSD cases was apparent between index and follow-up. Inconsistency in reporting, rather than report of true delayed-onset, was responsible for all PTSD cases newly identified at 1 year. The majority of subjects with PTSD at index who were recovered at follow-up reported no history of postdisaster PTSD at follow-up, suggesting considerable influence of fading memory.

Conclusions: This study's findings suggest that disaster research that conducts single interviews at index or a year later may overlook a significant portion of PTSD. The considerable diagnostic comorbidity found in this study was the one robust predictor of PTSD at any time after the disaster. Disaster survivors with a psychiatric history, especially depression, may be most vulnerable to developing PTSD and therefore may deserve special attention from disaster mental health workers.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Comorbidity
  • Depressive Disorder / diagnosis
  • Depressive Disorder / epidemiology
  • Disasters*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Homicide / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales / statistics & numerical data
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Survivors / psychology*