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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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10 Discussion


In conclusion, tsunami victims were still traumatized two and a half years after the tsunami and they showed greater psychological distress. In the tsunami- affected group, 44.8 percent of the people scored one standard deviation above the mean IES score of the total group. If the cut-off score of 24 is used for the IES, as was used in a Japanese sample (Inoue et al., 2006), 74.9 percent of the tsunami-affected group would be suffering from PTSD at the time of data col- lection. In the not affected group, only 35.5 percent were suffering from clini- cal PTSD. If both samples were pooled together, 57 percent of the total group would be suffering from PTSD, so it is evident that they were quite trauma- tized. When comparing the affected and not affected group, the affected group showed significantly more PTSD symptoms and general psychological distress symptoms. Moreover, as hypothesized, SOC and social support decreased the level of traumatic stress. SOC significantly decreased the level of general psychological distress and intrusion symptoms of PTSD. Social support decreased both intru- sion and avoidance symptoms of PTSD, as well as the level of general psycho- logical distress. The results of the study also indicated that avoidance coping is the coping strategy that is more effective in a collectivistic setting if the total sample is taken into account. Avoidance coping significantly decreased and approach coping significantly increased PTSD symptoms. Approach coping also signifi- cantly increased psychological distress. However, in the tsunami-affected sam- ple, only...

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