Post-traumatic stress spectrum in young versus middle-aged L’Aquila 2009 earthquake survivors

Spettro post-traumatico da stress nei sopravvissuti al terremoto dell’Aquila 2009: confronto tra giovani e adulti

L. Dell’Osso1, C. Carmassi1, G. Massimetti1, C. Conversano1, G. Di Emidio2, P. Stratta2, A. Rossi2

1 Department of Clinical and Experimental Medicine, University of Pisa, Pisa, Italy; 2 Section of Psychiatry, Department of Experimental Medicine, University of L’Aquila, L’Aquila, Italy


The aim of this study was to investigate full blown and partial post-traumatic-stress disorder (PTSD), besides post-traumatic stress symptoms, in a selected group of young and middle-age subjects who survived to the 2009 L’Aquila (Italy) earthquake, with a particular focus on the impact of age, gender and of their possible interaction.


Nine-hundred and thirty-nine subjects (468 women and 471 men, recruited amongst high-school students and their parents/ relatives who volunteered for the study, were included. All subjects were assessed by the Trauma and Loss spectrum-self report (TALS-SR) and the Impact of Event Scale (IES).


Three hundred and seventy-two (41.3%) subjects reported full PTSD, and 294 (32.5%) partial PTSD. Women reported significantly higher PTSD rates and partial symptoms than men who, in turn, showed significantly higher maladaptive copying behaviours, such as higher suicidal intention and attempts. Interestingly, younger men were more prone than women towards alcohol, drug or substance abuse and risk-taking activities. More mature subjects of both sexes reported significantly higher re-experiencing and arousal symptoms than younger ones.


High rates of full and partial PTSD and post-traumatic stress symptoms were detected in a group of Italian earthquake survivors, especially among women. On the contrary, men reacted to trauma with more maladaptive copying behaviours, particularly evident in the younger ones. Our results would indicate the need to carefully take into consideration age and gender impact on post-traumatic stress symptoms in subjects exposed to earthquakes, in order to identify rapidly high-risk subjects and possibly prevent maladaptive behaviours.

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