Background: In 2009, an earthquake devastated the Abruzzo region in Italy. Despite the occurrence of several disasters in this country, no study on mental health of Italian children has ever been conducted in complex emergencies. Objective of the study was to assess the prevalence of psychiatric symptoms among children in the affected area 12 to 17 months after the event.Methods: A community sample of 1839 3-14 years children was identified from the general population assigned to 37 paediatricians of the National Health System, including children living in the earthquake epicentre, the surrounding earthquake zone, and the adjacent non-affected areas. Psychiatric symptoms were assessed with the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL) and the Youth Self Report (YSR), completed by 452 children aged 11-14 years. The association between symptoms and sociodemographic, health, family, and earthquake-related factors was examined.Results: The prevalence of CBCL-defined cases was 14.9% in the epicentre, 13.0% in the remainder earthquake zone, 13.9% in the unaffected area (p =876). No differences among areas were found when comparing the YSR results. Prevalence of CBCL-defined post-traumatic stress (PTS) cases was 8.4% in the epicentre, 4.0% in the remainder earthquake zone, 2.2% in the unaffected area (p =002). PTS and anxiety were significantly more frequent in the epicentre than in other areas only in the 6-10 year-old children group (respectively p =009 and p =014). In multivariate logistic analyses, factors associated with PTS were living in the epicentre (OR = 3.6) and child or maternal history of mental health care prior to the earthquake (respectively OR = 7.1 and OR = 4.5).Conclusions: Children living in the epicentre, particularly those 6-10 years old, had the highest prevalence of CBCL-defined cases, and of PTS and anxiety symptoms one year after the earthquake. No signs of increased psychopathology were detected in younger (3-5 years) or older children (11-14 years). Family and health related factors showed stronger association with psychiatric outcomes than earthquake-related factors. The identification of populations at higher risk of developing psychiatric symptoms has implications for public health interventions in complex emergencies.
- Child and adolescent
- Mental health
- Post traumatic stress disorder
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Psychiatry and Mental health