Objective: To investigate quality of life (QOL) and related risk factors in Taiwanese earthquake survivors diagnosed with different psychiatric disorders 3 years after the 1999 Chi-Chi earthquake.
Method: This study was a population survey. Trained assistants used the Medical Outcomes Study Short Form-36 (MOS SF-36) and questionnaires to interview 405 respondents (189 men and 216 women) aged 16 years or older, who had been exposed to the earthquake. Psychiatrists interviewed the same respondents using the Mini-International Neuropsychiatric Interview, with an adjusted response rate of 70.2%.
Results: The prevalence range for psychiatric disorders in the earthquake survivors was 0.2–7.2% 3 years after the Chi-Chi earthquake, with rates for major depression (MD) and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) of 6.4% and 4.4%, respectively. The QOL scores for the PTSD/MD group were lower than for the other two diagnostic groups, as determined by assessment of physical and mental aspects of functional integrity from MOS SF-36 scores. The predictors for poor QOL were age, female gender, economic problems, physical illness, subjective assessment of memory and social-activity decline and diagnosis of PTSD or MD.
Conclusion: The QOL for earthquake survivors with psychiatric disorders, especially PTSD or MD, was inferior compared with the mentally healthy analogues, with contemporaneous decreases in mental and physical function scores across the QOL subscales. The persistence of long-term economic problems was one of many important factors affecting QOL.