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AUA SPH Investigates Postpartum Depression in Earthquake Survivors

By the AUA School of Public Health 

YEREVAN, Armenia – A team of researchers, alumni, and faculty from the American University of Armenia (AUA) School of Public Health (AUA SPH)  recently published an article entitled “Rate and Predictors of Postpartum Depression in a 22-year Follow-up of a Cohort of Earthquake Survivors in Armenia” in the Archives of Women’s Mental Health, the peer-reviewed official journal of the Section on Women’s Health of the World Psychiatric Association. The team consisted of Drs. Anahit Demirchyan (MPH ‘99), Diana Petrosyan (MPH ‘09), and Haroutune K. Armenian, AUA President Emeritus and Professor of Epidemiology. The study described in the article is a case-control study nested in a large scale cohort study, Post-earthquake Psychopathological Investigation (PEPSI), which followed a cohort of the 1988 Spitak earthquake survivors for over two decades.

It is well-known that psychopathological morbidity, particularly, post-traumatic stress disorder and depression, are very common among populations exposed to natural disasters. Women seem to be more prone to post-disaster psychopathology than men. Pregnant and postpartum women might be especially vulnerable to mental health consequences of disasters. Thus, the research team used the unique opportunity provided by the comprehensive dataset of the PEPSI cohort to investigate the rate and determinants of postpartum depression (the most widespread mental health condition among postpartum women) among long-term survivors of the Spitak earthquake.

According to the study findings, the rate of postpartum depression in this long-term post-earthquake cohort was 13%, which is similar to that among the Armenian general population. Earthquake exposure was not related to postpartum depression, indicating that the impact of disaster-related trauma may diminish over time. The study identified five independent predictors of postpartum depression: the number of experienced stressful life events, prior history of postpartum depression, poor outcome of the given delivery, perceived poor living standards during the post-earthquake decade, and perceiving oneself as not reliable for family and friends in 1990. Anxiety in 1990 could also be related to postpartum depression.

This study is one of the few cohort studies investigating postpartum depression among earthquake survivors. Unlike other studies, this study had a very long follow-up period. It was able to show the relation between postpartum depression episodes and some characteristics of women measured many years prior to that episode. The study provides evidence for developing interventions and preventive strategies targeting groups of women most prone to postpartum mental disorders.

The article is available here.

The AUA School of Public Health works actively to improve the health of the populace and health services in Armenia and the region through interdisciplinary education and development of public health professionals and others to be leaders in public health, health services research and evaluation, and health care delivery and management.

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