Email updates

Keep up to date with the latest news and content from Conflict and Health and BioMed Central.

Open Access 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

For all author emails, please log on.

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

Published: 26 August 2011

Abstract

Background

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

Methods

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.

Results

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.

Conclusions

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