Experience of human rights violations and subsequent mental disorders – A study following the war in the Balkans
Priebe S, Bogic M, Ashcroft R, Franciskovic T, Galeazzi GM, Kucukalic A, Lecic-Tosevski D, Morina N, Popovski M, Roughton M, Schützwohl M, Ajdukovic D.
Unit for Social and Community Psychiatry, Barts’ and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, Queen Mary University of London, UK
Soc Sci Med. 2010 Oct 30. [Epub ahead of print]
War experiences are associated with substantially increased rates of mental disorders, particularly Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Major Depression (MD). There is limited evidence on what type of war experiences have particularly strong associations with subsequent mental disorders. Our objective was to investigate the association of violations of human rights, as indicated in the 4th Geneva Convention, and other stressful war experiences with rates of PTSD and MD and symptom levels of intrusion, avoidance and hyperarousal.
In 2005/6, human rights violations and other war experiences, PTSD, post-traumatic stress symptoms and MD were assessed in war affected community samples in five Balkan countries (Bosnia-Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Macedonia, and Serbia) and refugees in three Western European countries (Germany, Italy, United Kingdom). The main outcome measures were the MINI International Neuropsychiatric Interview and the Impact of Event Scale-Revised. In total 3313 participants in the Balkans and 854 refugees were assessed. Participants reported on average 2.3 rights violations and 2.3 other stressful war experiences. 22.8% of the participants were diagnosed with current PTSD and also 22.8% had MD. Most war experiences significantly increased the risk for both PTSD and MD. When the number of rights violations and other stressful experiences were considered in one model, both were significantly associated with higher risks for PTSD and were significantly associated with higher levels of intrusion, avoidance and hyperarousal. However, only the number of violations, and not of other stressful experiences, significantly increased the risk for MD. We conclude that different types of war experiences are associated with increased prevalence rates of PTSD and MD more than 5 years later. As compared to other stressful experiences, the experience of human rights violations similarly increases the risk of PTSD, but appears more important for MD.