Background The long-term psychological effects of surviving a major disaster are poorly understood. We undertook a survey of survivors of the Piper Alpha oil platform disaster (1988).
Aims To examine the role of factors relating to the trauma, the survivors and the survivors' circumstances.
Method Ten years after the disaster, 78% (46/59) of the survivors were located, of whom 72% (33/46) agreed to be interviewed. A further three individuals completed postal measures.
Results The most stringent diagnostic criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were met by 21% (7/33) of the survivors over 10 years after the disaster. Features such as physical injury, personal experience and survivor guilt were associated with significantly higher levels of post-traumatic symptoms.
Conclusions A narrow definition of factors affecting outcome will limit the potential for improving survivor wellbeing in the long-term after major disasters. Specific symptoms that are not included in the criteria for the diagnosis of PTSD, together with issues such as reemployment, need to be addressed.
Declaration of interest None. Funding from the Chief Scientist Off ice of the Scottish Home and Health Office.