Traumatic bereavement, acute dissociation, and posttraumatic stress: 14 years after the MS Estonia disaster

Authors

  • Filip K. Arnberg,

    Corresponding author
    1. Uppsala University
    Current affiliation:
    1. National Center for Disaster Psychiatry, Department of Neuroscience, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
    • Kunskapscentrum för katastrofpsykiatri, Akademiska sjukhuset, Ing 15 vån 2, SE-751 85 Uppsala, Sweden
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  • Nils-Gustaf Eriksson,

    1. Mariehamn, Åland, Finland
    Current affiliation:
    1. Mariehamn, Åland, Finland
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  • Christina M. Hultman,

    1. Karolinska Institutet
    Current affiliation:
    1. Department of Medical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Karolinska Institutet, Stockholm, Sweden
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  • Tom Lundin

    1. Uppsala University
    Current affiliation:
    1. National Center for Disaster Psychiatry, Department of Neuroscience, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden and National Center for Disaster Psychiatry, Department of Neuroscience, Uppsala University, Uppsala, Sweden
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  • The Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare provided core funding for the National Center for Disaster Psychiatry. The authors thank Thomas Fröjd at the National Center for Disaster Psychiatry for valuable assistance with the statistical analysis.

Abstract

This prospective longitudinal study aimed to examine posttraumatic stress in survivors 14 years after a ferry disaster, and estimate short- and long-term changes in stress associated with traumatic bereavement and acute dissociation. There were 852 people who perished in the disaster, 137 survived. The 51 Swedish survivors were surveyed with the Impact of Event Scale–Revised (IES-R) at 3 months, 1, 3, and 14 years (response rates 82%, 65%, 51%, and 69%). Symptoms decreased from 3 months to 1 year; no change was found thereafter. After 14 years, 27% reported significant symptoms. Traumatic bereavement, but not acute dissociation, was associated with long-term symptom elevation. Chronic posttraumatic stress can persist in a minority of survivors, and traumatic bereavement appears to hinder recovery.

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