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Despite the frequency of disasters in Africa, almost nothing is known about ethnic affiliations in relation to psychopathology after such incidents. This study examined the mental health outcomes of members of 7 major ethnic groups exposed to the 1998 terrorist bombing of the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya.
Approximately 8 to 10 months after the disaster, 229 civilian employees, 99 locally engaged staff workers of the US State Department and the US Agency for International Development, and 64 workers of the Kenyan Red Cross Society (total N=392) were assessed with the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Fourth Edition). Additional data were gathered on demographic characteristics, disaster exposures and injuries, and ethnic affiliations.
Disaster-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) was significantly less prevalent among members of the Kikuyu group (28%) and post-disaster major depression was significantly more prevalent among members of the Meru group (64%), compared with all others in the sample. Preexisting psychopathology and disaster injury were independently associated with bombing-related psychopathology.
Further study of disaster-related psychopathology in relation to African ethnic affiliations is needed to better understand these associations and to assist in planning resources and interventions for African disaster survivors. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2018; 12: 360–365)
African disaster-affected populations are poorly represented in disaster mental health literature.
To compare systematically assessed mental health in populations directly exposed to terrorist bombing attacks on two continents, North America and Africa.
Structured diagnostic interviews compared citizens exposed to bombings of the US Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya (n=227) and the Oklahoma City Federal Building (n=182).
Prevalence rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depression were similar after the bombings. No incident (new since the bombing) alcohol use disorders were observed in either site. Symptom group C was strongly associated with PTSD in both sites. The Nairobi group relied more on religious support and the Oklahoma City group used more medical treatment, drugs and alcohol.
Post-disaster psycho-pathology had many similarities in the two cultures; however, coping responses and treatment were quite different. The findings suggest potential for international generalisability of post-disaster psychopathology, but confirmatory studies are needed.
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