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The World in Medicine
February 10, 1999

Civil War Stress

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JAMA. 1999;281(6):503. doi:10.1001/jama.281.6.503

Imagine the wartime image of an infant nailed to a barn with a pitchfork or a family member being decapitated. These violent images have fueled a posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) rate that is dozens of times higher among survivors of Bosnia's civil war than among people who have not been exposed to such atrocities.

In this month's Journal of Traumatic Stress, researchers from Lund University in Malmo, Sweden, report on 206 Bosnian refugees who fled to Sweden in the early 1990s while civil war raged in their homeland. The researchers measured PTSD rates by asking the refugees and 387 Swedish control subjects to rate on a scale of 1 to 7 the extent to which they experienced a number of symptoms in the previous week. The symptoms included sleeping problems, nightmares, depression, startle reactions, a tendency toward isolation, irritability, emotional difficulty, bodily tension, and fear of places or situations resembling the traumatic event.

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