Mediating role of post-traumatic growth in the relationship between inadequate disaster recovery and mental health outcomes: long-term evidence from the Wenchuan earthquake

European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Mingqi Fu, Jing Guo, Qilin Zhang & Brian J. Hall


Background: The mental health outcomes from disasters have aroused great concern worldwide, yet few studies incorporate a long-term disaster recovery perspective. Evidence has also emerged about the importance of the social determinants of mental health, but aspects of recovery including disruptions to livelihoods and social networks remain relatively understudied.

Objective: This study utilizes cognitive adaptation theory to examine the long-term relationship between inadequate disaster recovery and mental health outcomes while considering domains of post-traumatic growth (PTG) as mediators.

Methods: A cross-sectional study was conducted among 1369 adult survivors of the 2008 Wenchuan earthquake. Correlation analyses and multivariable regression analyses examined the association between inadequate disaster recovery and mental health outcomes, while parallel multiple mediator models and structural equation model explored the mediating role of PTG among these relationships.

Results: 52.2% and 8.1% of the respondents reported inadequate recovery on livelihood and social ties, respectively. Inadequate disaster recovery was associated with higher levels of PTSD and depressive symptoms, and this association was partially mediated by PTG. Lower reported PTG on the interpersonal relationship and new possibilities domains mediated the association between inadequate livelihood recovery on PTSD and depressive symptom severity, and enhanced personal strength mediated the association between inadequate social ties recovery on these symptoms.

Conclusion: Enhancing disaster recovery is essential for mental health protection, and PTG may be a valuable starting point in cognitive therapy to protect against stress responses after trauma.

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