School of Public Health Publishes Study on Underlying Dimensions of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder among the Post-Earthquake Psychopathological Investigation Study Cohort

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YEREVAN, Armenia – The American University of Armenia (AUA) School of Public Health recently published a study on the underlying dimensions of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) among the post-earthquake psychopathological investigation study cohort. The paper, entitled “Factor Structure and Psychometric Properties of the PTSD Checklist and DSM-5 PTSD Symptom Set in a Long-Term Post-Earthquake Cohort in Armenia” is the most recent in a series of papers based on the Post-Earthquake Psychopathological Investigation (PEPSI) study, which followed a cohort of the 1988 Spitak earthquake survivors for over two decades.  The research group members, Drs. Anahit Demirchyan and Vahe Khachadourian from the AUA School of Public Health and Dr. Armen Goenjian from UCLA School of Medicine, published their article in the Assessment – a highly rated specialized international peer-reviewed journal.

The article focuses on investigating the underlying structure of the Armenian version of PCL-C – a widely used checklist for assessing posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms among traumatized subjects.  The study also examines the diagnostic symptom clusters of PTSD suggested by the recent revision of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders – 5th edition (DSM-5).  The third focus of the paper was exploring the relation patterns between PTSD symptom clusters and common external psychopathology – depression and anxiety.

The study sample included 750 earthquake survivors from Gyumri, Spitak, and Vanadzor. The prevalence of PTSD among them was 15.1%, anxiety 28.0%, and depression 25.3%; comorbidity with two or three of these conditions was 18.6%.  A quarter century after the earthquake, 54% of those with PTSD viewed the Spitak earthquake as the major trauma that caused their disease symptoms.  This finding underscores the need to provide mental health services to those in the vicinity of the epicenter even years after the disaster.

The study results confirmed the validity of the Armenian-language PCL-C, which became the first PTSD-measuring scale validated in Armenian.  In addition, this study was among the first few that applied a PTSD diagnostic scale based on the new diagnostic criteria suggested by the DSM-5.  The study findings contributed to a better understanding of the underlying structure of PTSD, based on which recommendations were made to further improve the PTSD diagnostic criteria.  The study results provided support to the proposed new classification of common mental disorders, where PTSD, depression, and generalized anxiety are grouped together as a subclass of distress disorders.

The paper raised keen interest in the scientific community and received early feedback after the ‘Online First’ publication of the article.  The article can be accessed via the following link:
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.