PTSD in the aftermath of a natural disaster: what we learned from the Pisa-L’Aquila Collaboration Project

Claudia Carmassi 1, Alessandro Rossi 2, Virginia Pedrinelli 1, Ivan Mirko Cremone 1, Valerio Dell’Oste 1, Paolo Stratta 2, Carlo Antonio Bertelloni 1, Liliana Dell’Osso 1

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

DOI 10.36148/2284-0249-377


Several studies have shown that survivors of natural disasters present high PTSD rates. On 6th April 2009, L’Aquila (Central Italy) was jolted by a 6.3 Richter scale magnitude earthquake causing a massive destruction of the town. More than 300 individuals died, 1,600 were injured and about 65,000 displaced. The aim of this paper is to review the researches conducted on survivors to this earthquake in the context of the Pisa-L’Aquila Collaboration Project which is going on since 2009, in order to assess post-traumatic stress spectrum psychopathology and its correlates.


An overall sample of more than 2000 earthquake survivors was assessed by means of the Trauma and Loss Spectrum-Self Report (TALS-SR), a questionnaire exploring post-traumatic stress spectrum symptoms. The TALS-SR offers a multidimensional approach that considers three major dimensions: potentially traumatic events, including losses and the so-called low magnitude events; symptoms of the acute/peri-traumatic reaction; post-traumatic spectrum symptoms. Survivors were also assessed by means of Mood Spectrum-Self Report (MOODS-SR), to detect correlations between post-traumatic stress spectrum and mood spectrum symptoms.


High prevalence rates of both full and partial PTSD were found, as well as several factors (e.g. younger age, female gender, degree of exposure, bereavement experiences) associated with an increased likelihood of post-traumatic stress symptoms. Survivors with PTSD also reported significantly higher prevalence rates of specific symptoms, such as maladaptive behaviors including suicidality, and impairment in eating behaviors and somatic symptoms. 


These studies highlighted the heavy burden of PTSD in the aftermath of the earthquake, even months after exposure, and a close relationship between post-traumatic stress spectrum and mood spectrum symptoms, suggesting the need of additional research.

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