Posttraumatic stress and other health consequences of catastrophic avalanches: A 16-year follow-up of survivors

Edda Bjork Thordardottir*, Unnur Anna Valdimarsdottir, Ingunn Hansdottir, Heidi Resnick, Jillian C. Shipherd, Berglind Gudmundsdottir

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


To date, no study has investigated the effects of avalanches on survivor's health beyond the first years. The aim of this study was to examine long-term health status 16 years after exposure to avalanches using a matched cohort design. Mental health, sleep quality and somatic symptoms among avalanche survivors (n= 286) and non-exposed controls (n= 357) were examined. Results showed that 16% of survivors currently experience avalanche-specific PTSD symptoms (PDS score. >. 14). In addition, survivors presented with increased risk of PTSD hyperarousal symptoms (>85th percentile) (aRR. = 1.83; 98.3% CI [1.23-2.74]); sleep-related problems (PSQI score. >. 5) (aRR. = 1.34; 95% CI [1.05-1.70]); PTSD-related sleep disturbances (PSQI-A score. ≥. 4) (aRR. = 1.86; 95% CI [1.30-2.67]); musculoskeletal and nervous system problems (aRR 1.43; 99% CI 1.06-1.93) and gastrointestinal problems (aRR 2.16; 99% CI 1.21-3.86) compared to the unexposed group. Results highlight the need for treatment for long-term PTSD symptoms and sleep disruption in disaster communities.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)103-111
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Anxiety Disorders
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We would like to thank Harpa Jonsdottir for her help in collecting data and the late Jakob Smari for his invaluable support in initiating and designing this study. This study was funded by the University of Iceland Research Fund , the Icelandic Research Fund for Graduate Students (Rannis) and the Landspitali University Hospital Research Fund .

Publisher Copyright:
© 2015 Elsevier Ltd.

Other keywords

  • Avalanche
  • Disaster
  • Mental health
  • Physical health
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder


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