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Title: A long-term follow-up study of the survivors of the Piper Alpha oil platform disaster
Author: Hull, Alastair M.
ISNI:       0000 0004 2745 8150
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2013
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The long-term psychological effects of surviving a major disaster are poorly understood. A survey of survivors of the Piper Alpha oil platform disaster (1988) was undertaken to examine the role of factors relating to: the trauma; the survivors, and the survivors’ circumstances in relation to long-term outcome. Methods: Ten years after the disaster 78% (46/59) of the survivors were located, and, of these, 72% (33/46) agreed to be participate in a study conducted by questionnaire, diagnostic interview and semi-structured interview. In total, 61% of all survivors participated in this study. A further three individuals (7%) completed postal self-report measures. Results: High levels of physical disorder, general psychopathology and post-traumatic symptoms were reported. Twenty one percent (7/33) of the survivors who participated in the study still met the most stringent diagnostic criteria for PTSD over 10 years after the disaster; 73% met the same rule within three months of the disaster. Features such as physical injury, personal exposure to certain stressors during the trauma, survivor guilt, anger and employment difficulties were significantly correlated with long-term general and specific post-traumatic psychopathology and with social and occupational function. Features of the legal proceedings were also associated with long-term outcome. Whilst the media was experienced as intrusive, no statistically significant associations with long-term outcome were found. Treatment was generally accessible to participating survivors (97%) with non-professional help (82%) and outreach (69%; 25/36) widely used. Although many difficulties were experienced 61% of participants could identify some positive outcomes from the experience. Discussion: This study emphasises the need to consider a broad range of factors affecting outcome including the individual’s experience during a traumatic event, pre-existing stressors and factors relating to the response to the disaster and their environment. High rates of help-seeking were found to co-exist with high symptoms levels and this may relate to treatment effectiveness or failure to apply appropriate treatment in disaster populations. Attention to issues such as employment difficulties and compensation processes may improve survivor well-being in the long-term after disasters. Conclusions: This long-term follow-up of survivors of a major disaster has confirmed that the impact of a disaster is durable and extensive with psychological services required over prolonged periods.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Chief Scientist Office of the Scottish Executive(K/OPR/15/10F2)
Qualification Name: Thesis (M.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Drilling platforms ; Disasters ; Post-traumatic stress disorder