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A devastating earthquake occurred on May 12, 2008 in Sichuan, China. This study investigated the prevalence and factors in association with psychological problems among secondary school students living in Chengdu (90 km away from the disaster epicenter) in June 2008. In a cross-sectional survey, 3,324 secondary students self-administered a structured questionnaire in classroom setting. Validated scales were used in this study. Among all respondents, 22.3% reported post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD); 22.6% were probable depression cases; 10.6% reported suicidal ideation; and 14.1% would like to receive psychological counseling. No gender differences were found. While social/emotional support from teachers or peers (OR from 0.40 to 0.78) and exposure to positive news reports (OR from 0.59 to 0.62) were found protective, prior experience of severe mental distress (OR from 1.60 to 2.68) and corporal punishment (OR from 1.31 to 1.58), worry about future aftershocks (OR from 1.64 to 3.11), absence from school when it was not closed (OR from 1.38 to 1.48), exposures to scary or sorrowful disaster media coverage (OR from 1.39 to 2.07), post-disaster visits to affected sites (OR from 1.51 to 1.59), separation from parents (OR = 1.61), etc., were risk factors predictive of some of the aforementioned psychological problems. Negative mental health impacts were prevalent among the respondents. Teachers, parents, and the mass media are all important in maintaining good mental health among adolescents that are indirectly affected by the severe earthquake. The results have important implications for earthquake preparedness and relief work in the future.

Original publication




Journal article


J Urban Health

Publication Date





504 - 523


Adolescent, China, Cross-Sectional Studies, Earthquakes, Female, Humans, Male, Psychology, Adolescent, Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic, Stress, Psychological, Surveys and Questionnaires