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Reactions of the young to the tsunami

2013-10-21

Young people seem to have reacted differently and more practically than adults during the tsunami disaster in 2004. This is shown by a study carried out in a collaboration between Karolinska Institutet and Uppsala University.

It is the first qualitative study about young people affected by the tsunami, published in the Nordic Journal of Psychiatry.

“The study gives additional knowledge about crisis management and protective factors among disaster-stricken youth, which gives the opportunity to improve care and tending in the future,” says Tom Lundin, consultant and professor emeritus of Disaster Psychiatry at Uppsala University.

In-depth interviews were held with 20 randomly selected young people, who spoke of their psychological reactions during the tsunami, crisis management afterwards, the altered self-image and perception of altruism in connection with the disaster. In addition, researchers used data from a questionnaire answered by 4,910 adults and adolescents.

 The results showed that young people seem to have reacted differently and more practically than adults during the tsunami and handled the subsequent crisis situation better.

“This particularly applies to the young men, who seem to have stronger protective factors to cope with a traumatic experience,” said Tom Lundin.

Several of the young people told of how they were able to remain calm and act rationally during the actual disaster, something they were surprised over. In several cases, they took the lead role and took care of shocked family members.

After the disaster, the majority have changed their behaviour in terms of risk. The survey shows that either they are more cautious, or they have taken greater risks than before the disaster.