Psychological distress and sick leave in Swedish survivors of the 2004 tsunami. A comparison with a population sample

Disaster studies of the effects of trauma exposure on subsequent psychological health have seldom used population comparisons.

1463 tsunami survivors from Stockholm were categorized according to type of exposure, and compared on measures of General Health Questionnaire and sick-leave, with a matched population based sample of 15 417 individuals from the same region.

Data from the survivor group were obtained through a postal questionnaire 14 months post disaster. Data from the population sample were collected in the same year. In comparison to the population sample, the multiply exposed groups showed higher levels, while the moderately and the least exposed groups showed lower or comparable levels of psychological distress and sick-leave. The use of a population comparison resulted in a support of recent research showing a relative resiliency of survivors exposed during disaster to potential trauma of lesser severity.


  • Lars Wahlström, PhD, MD
  • Hans Michélsen, Ast Prof, PsyD
  • Abbe Schulman, PhD, MD
  • Magnus Backheden, MS

Read the article in Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease

Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease 2009; 197(12):918-922