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Tsunami in Kerala, India: Long-Term Psychological Distress, Sense of Coherence, Social Support, and Coping in a Non-Industrialized Setting

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Sophia von Lieres

This study assesses the long-term psychological consequences after the 2004 Asian tsunami in Kerala, India. Participants are the inhabitants of Kerala’s coastal regions. The results indicated that the participants who were affected by the tsunami showed significantly greater psychological distress and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) than a control group. In addition, it could be shown that protective factors, such as perceived social support, certain coping strategies, and a sense of coherence, could decrease the level of symptoms. Perceived social support, in particular, decreased symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder and a strong sense of coherence mitigated psychological distress. Avoidance coping was found to be more effective in decreasing levels of traumatic stress in this non-industrialized, collectivistic cultural setting.

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1 Introduction: Tsunami in Kerala

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On December 24, 2004, an earthquake measuring 9.1 on the Richter scale oc- curred off the west coast of Northern Sumatra causing one of the most devastat- ing tsunami waves ever recorded. It was the largest earthquake in the world since 1964. At least 231,000 people lost their lives and 1.7 million were ren- dered homeless (U.S. Geological Survey, USGS, 2008). Many people barely survived by running for their lives or by climbing onto rooftops (Schnibben, 2005). The under sea earthquake was caused by the Indian tectonic plate sliding under the Burma tectonic plate. The resulting ocean swells traveled as a wave 2,000 kilometers across the Indian Ocean. In this way, the tsunami waves caused destruction along the coastlines of 14 different countries, including In- donesia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, and even Africa (USGS, 2008). India was the third country severely affected by the tsunami after Indonesia and Sri Lanka. The states affected were Tamil Nadu, Pondicherry, Andhra Pra- desh, Kerala, and Andaman and Nicobar Islands. When the tsunami struck In- dia’s coastline at 8:45AM local time on December 26, 2004, the southeastern coast of Tamil Nadu and Andaman and Nicobar Islands were the worst hit are- as (Arya, 2005). The death toll in India was approximately 15,000 (Arya, 2005), or even higher than 16,000 with 10,749 dead and 5,640 missing on February 2, 2005 according to Mohanty (2005). Most of the Indians reported missing were from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, so...

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