The effect of traumatic bereavement on tsunami-exposed survivors


  • The authors would like to thank Thomas Fröjd for valuable contributions to the data analyses. The study was financed by the Swedish Emergency Management Agency, Swedish Board of Health and Welfare, and the Swedish Council for Working Life and Social Research.


Fourteen months after the 2004 tsunami, mental health outcome was assessed in 187 bereaved relatives, 308 bereaved friends, and in 3,020 nonbereaved Swedish survivors. Of the bereaved relatives, 41% reported posttraumatic stress reactions and 62% reported impaired general mental health. Having been caught or chased by the tsunami in combination with bereavement was associated with increased posttraumatic stress reactions. Complicated grief reactions among relatives were almost as frequent as posttraumatic stress reactions. The highest levels of psychological distress were found among those who had lost children. Traumatic bereavement, in combination with exposure to life danger, is probably a risk factor for mental health sequelae after a natural disaster.