The aim of this study was to examine the impact of the event and the recovery process after losing a relative in the Estonia maritime disaster, over time in an affected population and also finding predictors of long term negative health outcome related to traumatic losses.
On the night of September 28, 1994 one of modern time’s worst maritime disasters took place. The passenger ferry ship M / S Estonia shipwrecked on its way from Tallinn to Stockholm and out of 989 persons on board (583 persons were Swedish citizens) only 137 persons survived (53 from Sweden). Out of the 852 diseased persons (591 from Sweden) only 77 bodies were salvaged. Support groups for bereaved relatives were introduced at Ersta Psychiatric hospital one week after the disaster and the decision was made to collect data by means of a survey, inviting all interested bereaved relatives nationwide.
Although the longitudinal analyses showed a decreasing trend of IES-scores indicating psychological stress over time, after three months 83 percent of the respondents still reported scores over the cut-off score 25 (range 0-75 IES total). At 66 months 52 percent scored over the cut-off. In three out of four subgroups, which constructed according to the relation to the deceased, the reported scores were substantially above the cut-off, during the whole studied period. The subgroup containing persons who lost a child scored 46 after three months and 40 at the end of the 5,5 years period. Despite the great strain of losing a significant person, most people recover with the aid of their own social network. The results of this study show however that a majority of people affected by a loss through a disaster are at greater risk for developing a more traumatic grief and therefore might need professional support.
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