Background: Little is known about posttraumatic stress (PTS) reactions in bereaved individuals following loss in disaster who were not directly exposed to disaster. The aim of the present study was to examine the course of PTS up to three years after losing relatives in the MS Estonia ferry disaster, one of the worst maritime disasters in modern times. Methods: Seven postal surveys were sent out over three years post-disaster. The respondents were invited and added consecutively during the three years and 938 relatives participated in one or more of the surveys, representing 89% of the MS Estonia's Swedish victims. The survey included the Impact of Event Scale (IES) to measure PTS. Latent growth curve modeling was used to analyze PTS over time. Results: The majority of bereaved individuals had high levels of PTS. At three years post-loss, 62% of the respondents scored above the recommended cut-off value on the IES. Over time, PTS symptoms declined, but initially high symptoms of PTS were associated with a slower recovery rate. Conclusion: The present finding suggests that being an indirectly-exposed disaster-bereaved close-relative can lead to very high levels of PTS which are sustained for several years.
Sveen, J., Pohlkamp, L., Öhlén, J., Sandberg, J., Brandänge, K., & Gustavsson, P. (2016). Posttraumatic stress among not-exposed traumatically bereaved relatives after the MS Estonia disaster. PLoS ONE, 11(11). https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0166441