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Tijdschrift voor Psychiatrie 46 (2004) 2, 85 - 91

New research

The effects of two recent events on symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder in older persons

W.H. van Zelst, E. de Beurs

background Little is known about the sensitivity of screening instruments designed to measure posttraumatic stress disorder, at the time of unforeseen incidents that horrify and shock the public.
aim To map the changes in patients' scores for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) resulting from the September 11th attacks and the assassination of Pim Fortuyn.
method Statistical analyses were made of the changes in the self-rating inventory for PTSD (SRIP; Zelfinventarisatielijst, ZIL) that were recorded in elderly persons when the horrifying events took place. The elderly persons concerned were Dutch participants in a longitudinal study. The results are discussed in the light of the international literature relating to the September 11th attacks. Discussion focuses on chance findings obtained in the course of long-term research and on the results of specific investigations instituted to examine the impact of the attacks.
results The scores of respondents interviewed after the September 11th attacks were significantly higher than those of the same respondents 3 years earlier. The effect, however, faded over time. The scores in the week after the assassination of Pim Fortuyn were significantly higher than the scores achieved before and after that week.
conclusion The two horrifying incidents had marked effects on PTSD symptoms in elderly Dutch persons when these were measured on a scale for PTSD at the time of the events.

keywords aged, event, posttraumatic stress disorder