The study, co-led by Edinburgh Napier University’s (ENU) Professor Thanos Karatzias, warned the effects of the trauma experienced by those still living in Ukraine should play a “significant part” in the humanitarian response to the conflict.
The research found more than one in four of the 2,000 participants, made up of adults living in Ukraine between July and September last year, met the global standard threshold for either PTSD or complex posttraumatic stress disorder (CPTSD). This compares to a prevalence of 26.5 per cent detected in recent analysis of adult survivors of war and around 10 per cent or less in places unaffected by conflict.
The investigation is the first to ever assess the prevalence of CPTSD in an active war zone – and comes as the first anniversary of the invasion approaches. CPTSD is a more complex condition than PTSD – based on six clusters of symptoms – and may require longer interventions for recovery.
The rates were higher in the east of the country, already occupied by Russia in recent years, although people in every region had been severely affected. Respondents also reported very high rates of war-related stressors, such as having an experience of threat to their personal safety, financial security or local environment.
It is hoped the research could help inform measures to support Ukrainians impacted by the war.
The invasion began on February 24 last year. While more than ten million Ukrainians have taken refuge in a safe country such as Scotland, many opted to stay at home. Men aged 18 to 64 were not allowed to leave the country in case they ware required for military service.
Professor Karatzias, from ENU’s School of Health and Social Care, said: “Almost a year on from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, we are beginning to understand the extent of the psychological toll it will be taking on civilians. We found people have often been exposed to several potentially traumatic events in that time, whether it is hearing an air-raid siren, facing the destruction of local infrastructure or losing a loved one.”
He added: “If and when this war ends, we will need to think about ways we can help people move on with their lives. The humanitarian response, which is already hugely complex, will require some innovative thinking to address these psychological harms.”
Among the other findings were a higher prevalence of CPTSD – compared to PTSD – among female respondents, suggesting the conditions of war in Ukraine have left women more vulnerable to the condition than men.
According to mental health charity, Mind, CPTSD sufferers experience some symptoms of PTSD along with some additional symptoms, such as feeling very angry or distrustful towards the world, as well as feeling permanently damaged or worthless, completely different to other people or feeling like nobody can understand what happened to them.
The report also notes existing trauma treatments would likely be beneficial to support those affected by this conflict, with online delivery a potential solution, given the geographically dispersed population.