Which groups affected by Potentially Traumatic Events (PTEs) are most at risk for a lack of social support? A prospective population-based study on the 12-month prevalence of PTEs and risk factors for a lack of post-event social support


van der Velden PG, Komproe I, Contino C, de Bruijne M, Kleber RJ, Das M & Schut H



Objectives: Little is known about the 12-month prevalence of potentially traumatic events (PTEs) and to what extent the type of PTE is a risk factor for post-event lack of social support. In addition, it is largely unknown if pre-event mental health problems and loneliness, and demographics are risk factors for a lack of support. Aim of the present prospective study is to fill these gaps in evidence-based knowledge.

Methods: A survey was conducted among a large random sample of the Dutch adult population (i.e. the longitudinal LISS panel) in March-April 2018, and linked with pre-event mental health and loneliness data from surveys conducted in 2016 (n = 5,879). We distinguished four forms of perceived social support: emotional and esteem support, and social recognition and general disapproval.

Results: Loss of a significant other and/or colleague (28%) was the most prevalent 12-month PTE. The 12-month prevalence of violence, accidents and/or, and theft-related events was 13%. Multivariate logistic regression analyses revealed no differences in lack of emotional and esteem support, or in lack of recognition across non-death PTEs and death-related PTEs. However, victims of threat and physical (sexual) violence more often faced disapproval than those affected by burglary and accidents. Results furthermore showed that pre-event mental health problems, pre-event loneliness and stress during the PTE were important independent predictors of forms of support and acknowledgment. Affected individuals with a non-Western background more often lacked support and acknowledgment.

Conclusions: Many adults are confronted with a PTE during a year. In general, pre-event factors and stress during the event are better predictors of a perceived lack of support and acknowledgment than type of event. Early screening programs should especially assess pre-event mental health and loneliness, besides levels of stress during the event, to identify affected people who are at risk for a lack of social support and acknowledgment.

Received: January 8, 2020; Accepted: April 15, 2020; Published: May 29, 2020

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