BACKGROUND: Motor vehicle crashes can result in significant posttraumatic psychiatric morbidity. While the psychological impact of major disasters has been extensively studied in developing nations, psychological distress resulting from personal disasters such as road traffic crashes is sadly lacking. METHOD: Thirty inpatients who had been involved in a motor vehicle crash, either as a driver, passenger, or pedestrian, were assessed for psychiatric morbidity using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale and the Impact of Events Scale. We also studied the influence of various sociodemographic factors and peritraumatic emotional experiences on the development of psychological symptoms. RESULTS: Of the 30 patients, 57% had anxiety or depressive symptoms, 30% had an anxiety or depressive disorder, and 20% had posttraumatic stress disorder. It was also observed that peritraumatic emotions seemed to determine the type and severity of psychiatric symptoms that patients experienced. CONCLUSIONS: This study found that more than half of the victims of motor vehicle crashes in the sample suffered from some form of psychiatric morbidity. With rising industrialization and motorization in developing countries, the number of victims of motor vehicle crashes is bound to increase. Adequate attention to psychiatric interventions in the provision of emergency and trauma services could help prevent significant disability.
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