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Open Access Open Badges Research

PTSD, depression and anxiety among former abductees in Northern Uganda

Anett Pfeiffer* and Thomas Elbert

Author Affiliations

Department of Psychology, University of Konstanz, Box D23, 78457 Konstanz, Germany

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Conflict and Health 2011, 5:14  doi:10.1186/1752-1505-5-14

Published: 26 August 2011



The population in Northern Uganda has been exposed to extreme levels of traumatic stress and thousands abducted forcibly became rebel combatants.


Using structured interviews, the prevalence and severity of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety was assessed in 72 former abducted adults, 62 of them being former child soldiers.


As retrospective reports of exposure to traumatic stress increased, anxiety and PTSD occurrence increased (r = .45). 49% of respondents were diagnosed with PTSD, 70% presented with symptoms of depression, and 59% with those of anxiety. In a multiple linear regression analysis four factors could best explain the development of PTSD symptoms: male respondents (sex) living in an IDP-Camp (location) with a kinship murdered in the war (family members killed in the war) and having experienced a high number of traumatic events (number of traumatic events) were more likely to develop symptoms of PTSD than others. In disagreement to a simple dose-response-effect though, we also observed a negative correlation between the time spent with the rebels and the PTSD symptom level.


Former abductees continue to suffer from severe mental ill-health. Adaptation to the living condition of rebels, however, may lower trauma-related mental suffering.