Search tips
Search criteria 


Logo of ehpmedspringer.comThis journalToc AlertsSubmit OnlineOpen Choice
Environ Health Prev Med. 2001 July; 6(2): 97–103.
PMCID: PMC2723243

Life events and posttraumatic stress in Hanshin-Awaji earthquake victims


Stress induced by disaster is experienced to varying degrees by all respondents, and is known to evoke psychophysiological reactions. In this study, we investigated the relationships between earthquake-related life events and posttraumatic stress symptoms. A total of 380 adults were surveyed one year after the 1995 Hanshin-Awaji earthquake in Japan. The questionnaire included items concerning earthquake-related life events, emotional support and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms.

As a result, after controlling for demographic variables, earthquake-related life events were significantly related to the grade of posttraumatic stress and its three components: re-experience, avoidance and arousal, in both male and female subjects. Male subjects who currently had lower emotional support showed higher scores of posttraumatic stress and arousal. In conclusion, a higher experience of earthquake-related life events appears to be an important risk factor for development of poor mental health status following an earthquake disaster.

Key words: posttraumatic stress disorder, stress, life events, emotional support, mental health


1) Lystad M. Mental Health Response to Mass Emergencies: Theory and Practice. New York: Brunner/Mazel, 1988.
2) Shore J, Tatum E, Vollner W. Evaluation of mental health effects of disaster, Mount st. Helens eruption. Am. J. Public. Health 1986; 76 (suppl): 76–83. [PubMed]
3) Gleser GC, Green BL, Winget C. Prolonged Psychosocial Effects of a Disaster: A Study of Buffalo Creek. New York: Academic press, 1981.
4) Shore JH, Tatum EL, Vollner WM. Psychiatric reactions to disaster: The Mount st. Helens experience. Am. J. Psychiatry 1986; 143: 590–595. [PubMed]
5) Kinston W, Rosser R. Disaster: Effects on mental and physical state. J. Psychosom. Res. 1975; 18: 437–456. [PubMed]
6) Weinrich S, Hardin SB, Johnson M. Nurses intervene in Hugo disaster stress. Arch. Psychiatr. Nurs. 1990; 4: 195–205. [PubMed]
7) Solomon SD. Research issues in assessing disaster's effects. In: Gist R, Lubin B, editors. Psychosocial Aspects of Disaster. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1989: 308–340.
8) American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 3rd ed. Washington, DC: APA, 1980.
9) Murphy SA. Mediating effects of intrapersonal and social support on mental health 1 and 3 years after a natural disaster. J. traum. stress 1988; 1: 155–172.
10) McFarlane AC. The aetiology of posttraumatic stress disorders following a natural disaster. Br. J. Psychiatry 1988; 152: 116–121. [PubMed]
11) Holmes TH, Rahe RH. The social readjustment rating scale. J. Psychosom. Res. 1967; 11: 213–218. [PubMed]
12) American Psychiatric Association. Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders. 4th ed. Washington, DC: APA, 1994.
13) Munakata T, Nakao T, Fujita K, Suwa S. Stressor, coping resources, and mental health in an urban population. Seishin Eisei Kenkyu 1985; 32: 49–68 (in Japanese).
14) McFarlane AC. Life events and psychiatric disorder: The role of a natural disaster. Br. J. Psychiatry 1987; 151: 362–367. [PubMed]
15) Lima BR, Chavez H, Samaniego N, Pompei MS, Pai S, Santacruz H, et al. Disaster severity and emotional disturbance: Implications for primary mental health care in developing countries. Acta Psychiatr. Scand. 1989; 79: 74–82. [PubMed]
16) Pynoos RS, Goenjian AK, Tashjian M, Karakashian M, Manjikian R, Manoukian G, et al. Posttraumatic stress reactions in children after the 1988 Armenian earthquake. Br. J. Psychiatry 1993; 163: 239–247. [PubMed]
17) Goenjian AK, Najarian LM, Pynoos RS, Steinberg AM, Manoukian G, Tavosian A, et al. Posttraumatic stress disorder in elderly and younger adults after the 1988 earthquake in Armenia. Am. J. Psychiatry 1994; 151: 895–901. [PubMed]
18) Kato H, Asukai N, Miyake Y, Minakawa K, Nishiyama A. Posttraumatic symptoms among younger and elderly evacuees in the early stages following the 1995 Hanshin-Awaji earthquake in Japan. Acta Psychiatr. Scand. 1996; 93: 477–481. [PubMed]
19) Weisaeth L. Psychiatric studies in victimology in Norway: Main findings and recent developments. Victimology 1985; 10: 478–487.
20) McFarlane AC. Posttraumatic morbidity of a disaster: A study of cases presenting for psychiatric treatment. J. Nerv. Ment. Dis. 1986; 174: 4–14. [PubMed]
21) Geonjian AK. A mental health relief programme in Armenia after the 1988 earthquake: Implementation and clinical observations. Br. J. Psychiatry 1993; 163: 230–239. [PubMed]
22) Cardena E, Spiegel D. Dissociative reactions to the San Francisco Bay area earthquake of 1989. Am. J. Psychiatry 1993; 150: 474–478. [PubMed]
23) Sakano Y, Shimada H, Tsujiuchi T, Ito K, Akabayashi A, Yoshiuchi K, et al. Psychosomatic problems after the Great Hanshin earthquake in January 1995 (1): Symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorders and psychological stress response. Jpn. J. Psychosom. Med. 1996; 36: 649–656. (in Japanese).
24) Caplan G. The family as a support system. In: Caplan G, Killilea M, editors. Support System and Mutual Help: Multidisciplinary Explorations. New York: Grune & Stratton 1976: 19–36.
25) Cohen S, Wills T. Stress, social support, and the buffering hypothesis. Psychol. Bulletin. 1985; 101: 310–357. [PubMed]
26) Compas BE, Epping J. Stress and coping in children and families: Implications for children coping with disaster. In: Saylor CF, editors. Children and Disasters New York: Plenum 1993: 11–28.
27) Heppner PP, Reeder BL, Larson LM. Cognitive variables associated with personal problem solving appraisal: Implications for counseling. J. Counsel. Psychol. 1983; 30: 537–545.
28) Stone AA, Neale JM. New measure of daily coping: Development and preliminary results. J. Pers. Soc. Psychol. 1984; 46: 892–906.
29) Fleishman J. Personality characteristics and coping patterns. J. Health Soc. Behav. 1984; 25: 229–244.
30) Billings AG, Moos RH. Life stressors and social resources affect posttreatment outcomes among depressed patients. J. Abnorm. Psychol. 1985; 94: 140–153. [PubMed]
31) Sidle A, Moos RH, Adams J, Cady P. Development of coping scale. Arch. Gen. Psychiat. 1969; 20: 226–232. [PubMed]
32) Hardin SB, Weinrich M, Weinrich S, Hardin TL, Garrison C. Psychological distress of adolescents exposed to Hurricane Hugo. J. Traum. Stress 1994; 7: 427–440. [PubMed]
33) Bolin RC. Long-term Recovery from Disaster. University of Colorado Institute of Behavioral Science, Boulder 1982.
34) Carr VJ, Lewin TJ, Webster RA, Kenardy JA. A synthesis of the findings from the Quake Impact Study: A two-year investigation of the psychosocial sequelae of the 1989 Newcastle earthquake. Soc. Psychiatry Psychiatr. Epidemiol. 1997; April 32: 123–136. [PubMed]
35) Logue JM, Melick ME, Hansen H. Research issues and directions in the epidemiology of health factors of disasters. Epidemiology Review 1981; 3: 140–162. [PubMed]

Articles from Environmental Health and Preventive Medicine are provided here courtesy of The Japanese Society for Hygiene