The course of postdisaster psychiatric disorders in directly exposed civilians after the US Embassy bombing in Nairobi, Kenya: A follow-up study

Gus Qiong Zhang, Carol S North, Pushpa Narayanan, You Seung Kim, Samuel Thielman, Betty Pfefferbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

15 Scopus citations


Purpose: While disasters are common in Africa, disaster studies in Africa are underrepresented in the published literature. This study prospectively examined the longitudinal course of psychopathology, coping, and functioning among 128 directly exposed Kenyan civilian survivors of the 1998 US Embassy bombing in Nairobi. Methods: The Diagnostic Interview Schedule/Disaster Supplement assessed predisaster and postdisaster psychiatric disorders and variables related to coping, functioning, safety, and religion near the end of the first and third postdisaster years. Results: Total postdisaster prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at the 3-year follow-up was 49; 28 % of the sample still had active PTSD. Delayed-onset PTSD was not observed. Posttraumatic symptoms decayed more slowly in individuals with than those without PTSD. PTSD was more prevalent and chronic than major depression. Those with current PTSD or major depression reported more functioning problems than those without. The length of hospitalization for injuries after the bombing predicted major depression remission, but no predictors of PTSD remission were found. Conclusions: Despite differences in coping and social variables, longitudinal psychopathology in the Nairobi terrorism survivors appeared broadly similar to results in Western disaster populations. These findings contribute to the understanding of disaster mental health in Africa and may have implications for generalizability of psychiatric effects of terrorist attacks around the globe.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)195-203
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2013



  • Bombing
  • Disaster
  • Mental health
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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