A longitudinal follow-up study of Oklahoma City bombing survivors in the first quarter century after the disaster

BACKGROUND: This study is one of the longest post-disaster prospective longitudinal studies of disaster-related psychopathology, completed nearly a quarter century after a terrorist bombing, and the longest follow-up study ever conducted using full diagnostic assessment in highly exposed disaster survivors.

METHODS: Oklahoma City bombing survivors (87% injured) were randomly selected from a state survivor registry and interviewed approximately 6 months post-disaster (N = 182; 71% participation) and again nearly 25 years later (N = 103; 72% participation). Interviews were conducted using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule (a structured interview assessing full diagnostic criteria) for panic disorder, generalized anxiety disorder, and substance use disorder at baseline and also for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive disorder (MDD) at follow-up. The Disaster Supplement assessed disaster trauma exposure and subjective experience.

RESULTS: At follow-up, 37% of participants exhibited bombing-related PTSD (34% at baseline) and 36% had MDD (23% at baseline). More new cases of PTSD than MDD developed over time. Nonremission rates were 51% for bombing-related PTSD and 33% for MDD. One-third of participants reported long-term nonemployability.

CONCLUSIONS: The presence of long-term medical problems among survivors parallels the persistence of psychopathology. Ongoing medical problems might have contributed to psychiatric morbidity. Because no major variables predicted remission from bombing-related PTSD and MDD, all survivors with postdisaster psychopathology likely need access to longterm evaluation and care.

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