Comorbidity of PTSD, Major Depression, and Substance Use Disorder Among Adolescent Victims of the Spring 2011 Tornadoes in Alabama and Joplin, Missouri

Zachary Adams, Carla Kmett Danielson, Jennifer A. Sumner, Jenna L. McCauley, Joseph R. Cohen, Kenneth J. Ruggiero

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

13 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: The purpose of this study was twofold: (1) to estimate the prevalence of comorbid posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive episode (MDE), and substance use disorder (SUD); and (2) to identify risk factors for patterns of comorbidity among adolescents affected by disasters.

METHOD: A population-based sample of 2,000 adolescents (51% female; 71% Caucasian, 26% African American) aged 12 to 17 years (M = 14.5, SD = 1.7) and their parents was recruited from communities affected by the spring 2011 tornadoes in Alabama and Joplin, Missouri. Participants completed structured telephone interviews assessing demographic characteristics, impact of disaster, prior trauma history, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fourth Edition (DSM-IV), symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and major depressive episode (MDE), and substance use disorder (SUD) symptoms. Prevalence estimates were calculated for PTSD + MDE, PTSD + SUD, MDE + SUD, and PTSD + MDE + SUD. Hierarchical logistic regression was used to identify risk factors for each comorbidity profile.

RESULTS: Overall prevalence since the tornado was 3.7% for PTSD + MDE, 1.1% for PTSD + SUD, 1.0% for MDE + SUD, and 0.7% for PTSD + MDE + SUD. Girls were significantly more likely than boys to meet criteria for PTSD + MDE and MDE + SUD (ps < .05). Female gender, exposure to prior traumatic events, and persistent loss of services were significant risk factors for patterns of comorbidity. Parental injury was associated with elevated risk for PTSD + MDE. Adolescents should be evaluated for comorbid problems, including SUD, following disasters so that appropriate referrals to evidence-based treatments can be made.

CONCLUSIONS: Results suggest that screening procedures to identify adolescents at risk for comorbid disorders should assess demographic characteristics (gender), impact of the disaster on the family, and adolescents' prior history of stressful events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)170-185
Number of pages16
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2015
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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