Risk factors for post traumatic stress symptoms five years after the 1992 flood in the Vaucluse (France)
Verger P, Hunault C, Rotily M, Baruffol E
Rev Epidemiol Sante Publique 2000 Aug;48 Suppl 2:2S44-53, in French
BACKGROUND: Natural disasters may induce post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a severe and longlasting psychopathology, in exposed populations. In France, several natural disasters occurred in the past, but epidemiological data on their psychological consequences are scarce. In September 1992, a flood affected 63 municipalities in the Vaucluse, South of France, and resulted in 38 deaths. An epidemiological study was carried out in 1997 to evaluate the potential association between the degree of exposure to the flood and PTSD symptoms as well as PTSD risk factors. METHODS: A telephone survey was carried out in Bedarrides (5000 inhabitants), one of the most affected municipalities. Subjects residing in Bedarrides and older than 18 years at the time of the disaster were included in the study. Symptoms of PTSD were assessed using a structured questionnaire based on DSM-IV criteria and a PTSD score was calculated. Individual exposure was retrospectively assessed by questionnaire. To take into account the exposure level, an indicator of cumulated exposure was established. Multiple regression analyses were performed to explain the PTSD score. RESULTS: Five hundred individuals were interviewed with a 79% response rate. A significantly higher PTSD score was observed for females, subjects older than 35 years, subjects with a monthly income lower than 9000 FF, subjects with a history of psychological disorders or life-threatening traumatic event. A significant exposure-effect relationship was observed between the level of exposure to the flood and the PTSD score which was multiplied by 3.4 in most severely exposed individuals. An increased PTSD score was also observed in subjects residing in the flooded area and in those who benefited from psychological care at the time of the flood. CONCLUSION: These results, compatible with published results, suggest a long term psychological impact of the 1992 flood on the Bedarrides population.