The association between dispositional and mental health problems among disaster victims and a comparison group: A prospective study

P.G. van der Velden, R.J. Kleber, M. Fournier, Linda Grievink, A. Drogendijk, B.P.R. Gersons

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

    31 Citations (Scopus)

    Abstract

    Background: It is unclear whether the associations between the level of dispositional optimism on the one hand, and depression
    symptoms and other health problems on the other hand among disaster victims differ from the associations among non-affected residents.

    Methods: To assess the associations between the level of dispositional optimism and health problems among disaster victims and
    non-affected residents, data of the longitudinal Enschede Fireworks Disaster Study was analyzed. Participants in the present study
    consisted of adult native Dutch victims of the disaster (N=662) and a non-affected comparison group (N=526). Both groups
    participated 18 months (T1) and almost four years post-disaster (T2). Multivariate logistic regression analyses were applied to
    examine the association between optimism and health problems among both groups.

    Results: Results showed that pessimistic victims were more at risk for severe depression symptoms and obsessive–compulsive
    symptoms than optimistic victims when controlling for demographic characteristics, life events, smoking, and existing health
    problems at T1. However, pessimistic participants in the comparison group were also more at risk for severe anxiety symptoms,
    sleeping problems, somatic problems, and problems in social functioning than optimistic control participants
    .
    Limitations: We had no information on dispositional optimism before 18 months post-disaster
    .
    Conclusions: Pessimists at baseline are more at risk for health problems after 27 months than optimists. However, among nonaffected
    residents pessimism is a stronger independent risk factor than among victims. Results suggest that professional helpers
    such as general practitioners, psychologists and psychiatrists should not rely too much on optimistic views of disaster victims.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)35-45
    Number of pages10
    JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
    Volume102
    Publication statusPublished - 2007

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