Mental health following the volcanic eruption in Eyjafjallajökull volcano in Iceland in 2010. A population-based study

by Ólöf Sunna Gissurardóttir 1985

Institution: University of Iceland
Year: 2015
Keywords: Lýðheilsuvísindi
Record ID: 1222095
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/20888


Volcanic eruptions and other natural disasters have a great impact on a large number of people throughout the world every year. Being exposed to a volcanic eruption can entail physical consequences, such as mortality, injuries or communicable diseases, and psychological consequences, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or depression. The aim of this study was to examine the mental health effects of the 2010 Eyjafjallajökull volcanic eruption in Iceland on nearby residents, six to nine months after the eruption ended. A further aim was to examine whether potential mental health effects differentiated by level of exposure and having experienced the volcanic eruption directly. This cross sectional study included 1,615 residents living in an area close to the Eyjafjallajökull volcano at the time of the eruption and a sample of 697 residents from a non-exposed area in North Iceland. In fall of 2010, six to nine months after the eruption ended, all consenting participants received a questionnaire, containing questions on physical and mental well-being (General Health Questionnaire - 12-item version (GHQ-12), Perceived stress scale (PSS-4) and Primary care PTSD (PC-PTSD)). Additional questions regarding experience of the volcanic eruption were also included for the exposed group. Questionnaires were received from 1,146 participants in the exposed group (71%) and 510 participants in the non-exposed group (73%). Results showed that participants living in the high-exposed area were at increased risk of experiencing mental distress (GHQ-12 score ≥3) 6-9 months following the eruption (OR 1.39%; 95% CI 1.06 to 1.83), compared to the non-exposed group. High-exposed participants were furthermore at increased risk of experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), compared to those living in the low-exposed area (OR 3.74; 95% CI 1.16 to 12.11). Lastly, for the exposed group, the following predictors for symptoms of mental distress, PTSD symptoms and perceived stress were identified: own property damaged (mental distress: OR 2.70; 95% CI 2.02 to 3.60, PTSD symptoms: OR 5.21; 95% CI 2.98 to 9.11 and perceived stress: OR 1.37; 95% CI 1.02 to 1.85), having felt insecure during the eruption (mental distress: OR 3.56; 95% CI 2.40 to 5.26, PTSD symptoms: OR 11.35; 95% CI 6.67 to 19.31 and perceived stress symptoms: OR 2.33; 95% CI 1.55 to 3.49), having had to use protective equipment outside during the eruption (mental distress: OR 1.53; 95% CI 1.11 to 2.11 and PTSD symptoms: OR 2.39; 95% CI 1.23 to 4.62), having had to stay outdoors in ash fall due to work or other duties (mental distress: OR 1.59; 95% CI 1.17 to 2.15, PTSD symptoms: OR 4.77; 95% CI 2.39 to 9.52 and perceived stress symptoms: OR 1.54; 95% CI 1.12 to 2.12), and having had a view of the volcanic eruption from their home (mental distress: OR 3.08; 95% CI 1.89 to 5.04, PTSD symptoms: OR 14.22; 95% CI 1.96 to 103.27 and perceived stress symptoms: OR 1.78; 95% CI 1.13 to 2.80). These findings of increased psychological morbidity following the volcanic…