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High likelihood of depression, anxiety and distress

8 June, 2010

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Photo by Lars Svenkerud.

Being orphaned by a war during childhood or adolescence is associated with a high likelihood of depression, anxiety disorders and other psychological distress in young adulthood, results from the Kosovo study indicates.

The Children and War Foundation funded a project that investigated mental health of 179 bereaved young adults and 175 non-bereaved young adults who experienced the Kosovo war a decade ago as children or adolescents. All bereaved participants reported the killing of the father during the war.

Dr. Nexhmedin Morina from the University of Amsterdam and Dr. Ulrike von Lersner from the Free University of Berlin has now completed the project, and has summarised the study.

Results indicated that about 60 per cent of the orphaned young war survivors met criteria for either major depressive disorder or an anxiety disorder, as compared to 40 per cent of non-bereaved young war survivors.

Among orphaned war survivors, participants with clinical symptoms of prolonged grief were three times more likely to suffer from either depression or an anxiety disorder and nearly eight times more likely to report current suicide risk.

Furthermore, bereaved participants with clinical symptoms of prolonged grief reported significantly more somatic symptoms, higher general health distress, and higher scores of negative affect as compared to bereaved participants without such symptoms. These findings indicate that being orphaned by the war during childhood or adolescence is associated with a high likelihood of depression, anxiety disorders, and other psychological distress in young adulthood.