Flexible coping and the relationship between secondary stressors associated with a earthquake/tsunami and PTSD

  • P. Repetto
  • E. Guic
  • N. Bronfman


Background: The percentage of people who will manifest symptoms of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) after a natural disaster range widely (4.5-50%). However, there is still much we need to learn about the factors that explain these findings. Coping has been found to explain outcomes among individuals exposed to stressors. In the present study we examined the role secondary stressors and flexible coping on the presence of PTSD symptoms among adults exposed to an earthquake/tsunami. Methods: Study was conducted between 2-3 months after the Pisagua Earthquake that hit the north of Chile on april, 2014. Participants were a representative sample of 701 adults (58.3% females, age 18-95, mean age= 40.59, 62.3% employed), living in Iquique or Alto Hospicio, who completed a survey applied by trained interviewers. For the purposes of this study we included the measures of exposure to the event, secondary stressors, PTSD, flexible coping, and sociodemographic conditions. Findings: More symptoms were reported among: females (t= 3.987), having perceived that their own lives and of close ones were at risk (t=3.503), having losses (personal, social and/or material) (t=3.903). Flexible coping was associated with less symptoms (t=-8.699). Discussion: Findings show the role of secondary stressors on the development of these symptoms and the protective role of flexible coping. These latter findings suggest the importance of promoting this type of coping as the number of natural disasters appear to increase as well as the population exposed. Cross sectional nature of the study and use of self-report are limitations that must be recognized.
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