Despite a growing number of studies and reports indicating a very high and increasing prevalence of trauma exposure in Greenlandic adolescents, the knowledge on this subject is still very limited. The purpose of the present study was twofold: To estimate the lifetime prevalence of potentially traumatic events (PTEs) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and to examine the relationship between PTEs, estimated PTSD, and sociodemographic variables.
In a Greenlandic sample from 4 different schools in 2 different minor towns in Northern Greenland, 269 students, aged 12–18 (M=15.4; SD=1.84) were assessed for their level of exposure to 20 PTEs along with the psychological impact of these events.
Of the Greenlandic students, 86% had been directly exposed to at least 1 PTE and 74.3% had been indirectly exposed to at least 1 PTE. The mean number of directly experienced PTEs was 2.8 and the mean number of indirectly experienced PTEs was 3.9. The most frequent direct events recorded were death of someone close, near drowning, threat of assault/beating, humiliation or persecution by others and attempted suicide. The estimated lifetime prevalence of PTSD was 17.1%, whereas another 14.2% reached a subclinical level of PTSD (missing the full diagnosis by 1 symptom). Education level of the father, and being exposed to multiple direct and indirect PTEs were significantly associated with an increase in PTSD symptoms.
The findings indicate substantial mental health problems in Greenlandic adolescents and that these are associated with various types of PTEs. Furthermore, the findings indicate that Greenlandic adolescents are more exposed to certain specific PTEs than adolescents in similar studies from other nations. The present study revealed that Greenlandic girls are particularly vulnerable towards experiencing PTEs. Indeed, in general, girls reported more experiences of direct and indirect PTEs. Furthermore, girls reported being more commonly exposed to specific types of PTEs compared to boys.
Keywords: post-traumatic stress disorder, adolescence, traumatic exposure, cross-cultural research, Greenland