Earthquakes are unpredictable and devastating natural disasters. They can cause massive destruction and loss of life and survivors may suffer psychological symptoms of severe intensity. Our goal in this article is to review studies published in the last 20 years to compile what is known about posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) occurring after earthquakes. The review also describes other psychiatric complications that can be associated with earthquakes, to provide readers with better overall understanding, and discusses several sociodemographic factors that can be associated with post-earthquake PTSD.
A search for literature was conducted on major databases such as MEDLINE, PubMed, EMBASE, and PsycINFO and in neurology and psychiatry journals, and many other medical journals. Terms used for electronic searches included, but were not limited to, posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), posttraumatic symptoms, anxiety, depression, major depressive disorder, earthquake, and natural disaster. The relevant information was then utilized to determine the relationships between earthquakes and posttraumatic stress symptoms.
It was found that PTSD is the most commonly occurring mental health condition among earthquake survivors. Major depressive disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder, social phobia, and specific phobias were also listed.
The PTSD prevalence rate varied widely. It was dependent on multiple risk factors in target populations and also on the interval of time that had elapsed between the exposure to the deadly incident and measurement. Females seemed to be the most widely-affected group, while elderly people and young children exhibit considerable psychosocial impact.