Psychiatric morbidity following a natural disaster: An Australian bushfire

  • A. C. McFarlane
  • J. R. Clayer
  • C. L. Bookless
Original Paper


This study investigated the prevalence of mental health problems after a major bushfire in Australia and examined the validity of the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ) (Goldberg 1978) against the Anxiety, Affective and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder modules of the Diagnostic Interview Schedule (DIS; Robins et al. 1981). Study 1 was carried out 12 months after the Ash Wednesday bushfires and sought to include all the victims of the fires. Study 2 was conducted 20 months after the fires and included a sample of victims who had experienced major losses in the fires. Twelve months after the fires, 42% (n=1,526) of the victims were defined as a potential psychiatric case using the GHQ. This rate indicated a significantly greater level of morbidity than found in communities that have not experienced a natural disaster. Twenty months after the fires, 23% (n=43) were defined as “cases”. The 28-item GHQ was found to be a valid instrument for defining the presence of psychiatric disorder in a disaster-effected community. The findings demonstrated that lasting psychiatric morbidity is associated with natural disasters.


Public Health Mental Health Health Problem Psychiatric Disorder Mental Health Problem 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 1997

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. C. McFarlane
    • 1
  • J. R. Clayer
    • 1
  • C. L. Bookless
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Psychiatry Professorial Unit, Queen Elizabeth HospitalUniversity of AdelaideWoodvilleAustralia

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