Mental Health in Sumatra After the Tsunami

  • Elizabeth Frankenberg
  • Jed Friedman
  • Thomas Gillespie
  • Nicholas Ingwersen UCLA
  • Robert Pynoos UCLA
  • Lip Umar Rifai UCLA
  • Bondan Sikoki
  • Alan Steinberg
  • Cecep Sumantri
  • Wayan Suriastini
  • Duncan Thomas


Objectives. We assessed the levels and correlates of posttraumatic stress reactivity (PTSR) of more than 20 000 adult tsunami survivors by analyzing survey data from coastal Aceh and North Sumatra, Indonesia.
Methods. A population-representative sample of individuals interviewed before the tsunami was traced in 2005 to 2006. We constructed 2 scales measuring PTSR by using 7 symptom items from the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) Checklist– Civilian Version. One scale measured PTSR at the time of interview, and the other measured PTSR at the point of maximum intensity since the disaster.
Results. PTSR scores were highest for respondents from heavily damaged areas. In all areas, scores declined over time. Gender and age were significant predictors of PTSR; markers of socioeconomic status before the tsunami were not. Exposure to traumatic events, loss of kin, and property damage were significantly associated with higher PTSR scores.
Conclusions. The tsunami produced posttraumatic stress reactions across a wide region of Aceh and North Sumatra. Which factors emerged as the most important varied by the degree of damage in the community.


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