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


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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6 Research Questions and Hypotheses


Already existing studies investigated the consequences of comparable flood- disasters in different countries. The results were that flood victims showed more depressed symptoms, anxiety, traumatic stress, and emotional disorders than non-flood victims (McMillen, North, Mosley, & Smith, 2002). However, it has yet to be determined to what extent the indigenous peoples in tsunami- affected areas are still traumatized two and a half years after the disaster. In this context, the cross-cultural validity of the PTSD concept needs to be further ex- plored. In refugee groups from non-Western countries, for example, using the PTSD-checklist, there was a high construct-validity of the items in the symp- tom group “intrusion“ and “increased arousal“ However, this was not the case with the symptom group “avoidance/emotional numbing” (Joannidis, 2006). These ethno-cultural aspects have so far been neglected. Moreover, the patho- genetic processes leading to PTSD symptoms are well investigated, but not the personal resources such as a SOC, certain coping strategies, and perceived so- cial support that act as protective factors, especially in the case of flood disaster victims (Otto, Boos, Dalbert, Schöps & Hoyer, 2006). Furthermore, the find- ings published on how variables such as the severity of trauma (e.g. whether participants lost a family member, their home, or their means of earning a live- lihood) or demographic factors (e.g. level of education, age, or marital status) influence the degree of PTSD are far from being consistent. In order to contrib- ute to clarifying these issues, the following research questions have been de- rived. Moreover,...

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