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Both human-induced and natural disasters can be traumatizing for those experiencing them. Disasters often occur unexpectedly with a lot of people traumatized collectively. The consequences can be profound.

For many years we have been concerned with the consequences of disaster both in Denmark and abroad. We have studied the psychological reaktions and PTSD among victims of natural disasters in the form of earthquake, avalanches and tsunamis. Likewise we have studied reaktions and PTSD among victims of the eksplosion disasters on Lindø and in Seest, just as among victims of the fire on Scandinavian Star. 


You will find a list below with all of our ongoing and completed projects related to the research area of  disasters. 

Cant find what you are looking for?

If you are interested in crisis counselling and debriefing, look under the research area of rehabilitation here.
If you are interested in differences in reaktion after experiencing an accident, look under the research area of culture here.


You will find a list of all our publications regarding disasters here

Project related to the research area: 

Ongoing projects

Related publications: 
Jørgensen, L. K. & Elklit, A. (2020). Togulykken på Storebæltsbroen den 2. januar 2019. Odense: Videnscenter for Psykotraumatologi, SDU. (1-107).


Completed projects

EUNAD: European Network for Psychosocial Crisis Management – Assisting Disabled in Case of Disaster
EUNAD–IP: European Network for Psychosocial Crisis Management – Assisting Disabled in Case of Disaster – Implementation. 

The “European Network for Psychosocial Crisis Management – Assisting Disabled in Case of Disaster (EUNAD, 2013–2014)” project focused on people with sensory impairment. The follow-up project, entitled “European Network for Psychosocial Crisis Management – Assisting Disabled in Case of Disaster – Implementation (EUNAD IP, 2016–2017)”, also dealt with the psychosocial crisis management available to people with physical and mental disabilities and looked at the development of pedagogical self-help toolkits for people with disabilities.

Current issue:
Elklit, A. (2018). Research results. Danish study. In federal office of civil protection and Disaster Assistance (Ed.) Assisting Disabled in Case of Disaster (pp69-74). Bonn:Author.

Related publications:
Elklit, A., Simonsen, L. D. & Todorovac, A. (2019). Medizinische und Psychosociale Versorgung von körperbehinderten Menschen in Notfallsituationen. Trauma – Zeitschrift für Psychotraumatogie und ihre Anwendungen, 17(2), 70-77.

Todorovac, A., Simonsen, L. D. & Elklit, A. (2018). Review of research. In Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (Ed.) Assisting Disabled in Case of Disaster (pp 133-135). Bonn: Author.

Elklit, A., Simonsen, L. D. & Todorovac, A. (2018). No one left behind - The accessibility of medical and psychosocial services following disasters and other traumatic events: Experiences of physical disabled individuals in Denmark. In Federal Office of Civil Protection and Disaster Assistance (Ed.) Assisting Disabled in Case of Disas-ter (pp 136-152). Bonn: Author.

Todorovac, A., Simonsen, L. D. & Elklit, A. (2018). No one left behind. Journal of Emergency Management, 16, 1-13. Doi:10.5055/jem2018.0000

Skøt, L., Jeppesen, T., Mellentinc, A. S. & Elklit, A. (2017): Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals in times of disaster and crisis. Disability and Rehabilitation, 39 (24), 2468-2476. Doi: 10.1080/09638288.2016.1236154

This community study assessed the prevalence of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other psychological consequences of an explosion disaster in a residential area in Seest, Denmark, in November 2004. Method: A community sample of 516 evacuated adults and a control group of 119 citizens situated near the disaster area, but not affected by the explosion were assessed 3 months after the disaster by means of standardized instruments. Results: Of the evacuated sample, 13% met the DSM-IV criteria for PTSD in contrast to 1% in the control group; 35% of the exposed sample and 7% of the control group were identified as ‘probable cases’ by the GHQ-30 (both p’s < .0005). Conclusion: The study gives evidence of the negative impact of a technological disaster on mental health and the need for preventive interventions.

Current issue:
Elklit, A. & Molin, K. (2006) De psykosociale konsekvenser af fyrværkerikatastrofen i Seest. Del 1 – Beboerne 3 måneder efter. Psykologisk Skriftserie, 27 (2), 1-142.

Related publications:
Elmose, M., Elklit, A. & Duch, Christina. (2016) Children’s coping styles and trauma symptoms after an explosion disaster. Scandinavian Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Psychology, 4(3), 132-140.

Elklit, A., Nielsen, L. H., Lasgaard, M. and Duch, C. (2013) A Cartoon-Based Measure of PTSD Symptomatology in Children Exposed to a Disaster. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 18, 54–63. Doi: 10.1080/15325024.2012.679125

Rønholt, S., Karsberg, S. & Elklit, A. (2013). Preliminary Evidence for a Classroom Based Psychosocial Intervention for Disaster Exposed Children with Posttraumatic Stress Symptomatology. Child and Youth Care Forum, 42(6), 617-631. Doi: 10.1007/s10566-013-9220-3

Elklit, A., Nielsen, L. H., Dinesen, C. S. & Jacobsen, M.(2009): Traumekursus for børnene på Bakkeskolen efter fyrværkerikatastrofen i Seest ved Kolding. Århus: Psykotraumatologisk Forskningsenhed, Psykologisk Institut, Aarhus Universitet (1-63).

Molin, K., Elklit, A. & Petersen, T. (2009) Seest: Tiden læger ikke alle sår. PsykologNyt, 63, 3-11.

Duch, C. & Elklit, A. (2008) Børneperspektiv på en katastrofe. Psykolog Nyt, 62, (4), 8-12.

Elklit, A., Petersen, T. & Molin, K. (2008) De psykosociale konsekvenser af fyrværkerikata-strofen i Seest. Del 3 – Beboerne 15 måneder efter. Psykologisk Skriftserie, 29(1), 1-100.

Duch, C. (2007) Børns reaktioner & tilpasning efter en katastrofe. København: Dansk Krise- og Katastrofepsykologisk Selskab.

Elklit, A. & Molin, K. (2007) De psykosociale følger af fyrværkerikatastrofen i Seest. Del 2 – Indsatspersonellet 5 måneder efter. Psykologisk Skriftserie, 28 (1), 1-104.

Molin, K. & Elklit, A. (2007) Indsatsen i Seest II. Psykolog Nyt, 61 (14), 8-14.

Molin, K. & Elklit, A. (2007) Indsatsen i Seest. Psykolog Nyt, 61 (13), 8-13.

Elklit, A. (2007) Psychological consequences of a firework factory disaster in a local community. Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, 42 (8), 664-668.

Molin, K. & Elklit, A. (2006) Tre måneder efter Seest. Psykolog Nyt, 60 (8), 6-11.

Molin, K. & Elklit, A. (2006) Læren af Seest-katastrofen. Psykolog Nyt, 60(10), 16-19.

Scandinavian Star - the physical, psychological and social effects 3½ years after a catastrophe. Ask Elklit, Lona Bjerre Andersen & Tine Arctander. In April 1990 a fire onboard the ferry "Scandinavian Star" killed 159 people. This study is a continuation of an earlier study (Elklit & Andersen, 1994) and examines the aftermath of the catastrophe in 47 persons; 18 survivors and 29 bereaved, 42 months later, and two years of the first study. The group was studied by means of five questionnaires. During the last two years 43% have changed their working positions. 61% have experienced stressing life events in the period, and 39% feel troubled by problems at work or in the family at the time of the study. There is a rise in anxiety connected with public transportation, but there are no significant changes in anxiety in general, concern of loss of family, security behavior, media habits concerning death and accidents, and capacity to master daily life. Emotional life and social relations have remained more open and intimate for many, but the tendency to withdraw and become irritable has increased in others. The IES-score has dropped from 29 to 27.3; for the survivors the IES is 21.7, and for the bereaved it is 30.5, due to a high level of invasion. For the latter there is a rise in the level of avoidance reactions. About half are troubled by depression, emotional lability, irritation and tenseness in a distressing degree. Between 20% and 40% of the group are distressed by six other posttraumatic symptoms. The very modest fall in symptom levels could indicate a stabilization at a rather high level, which combined with the rise in the level of isolation and irritability give occasion for concern.

Current issue:
Elklit, A., Andersen, L. B., Arctander, T. (1995 )Scandinavian Star. Anden del. De fysiske, psykologiske og sociale eftervirkninger 3½ år efter katastrofen. Psykologisk Skriftserie, 20, (2), 1-90.

Related publications:
Levinsen, L. K. & Elklit, A. (2013). Kognitive senreaktioner og mestringsstrategier hos overlevende og efterladte til branden om bord på Scandinavian Star. Matrix, 30 (4), 250-267.

Elklit, A. (1997) Katastrofen på Scandinavian Star. Førstehjælp og Sundhedsfremme, 88, 3-6.

Elklit, A. (1996) Scandinavian Star-ofrene tre og et halvt år efter katastrofen. Tidsskrift for Norsk Psykologforening, 33,653-654.

Elklit, A. (1996) De psykologiske reaktioner og eftervirkninger hos ofre for transportkata-strofer til søs. Nordisk Psykologi, 48 (1), 1-20.

Elklit, A. (1995) Hvordan klarede ofrene sig fra “Scandinavian Star” sig?
Forskningsnyt fra Psykologien 4(1), 3-5.

Elklit, A. & Andersen, L. B. (1994) Scandinavian Star - en undersøgelse af de fysiske, psykologiske og sociale eftervirkninger af en katastrofe. Psykologisk Skriftserie, 19 (5). (2. udgave 1995).

The aim of this study was to explore the psychological consequences of two earthquakes in Iceland in two probability samples of subjects – residents in the exposed area and a control group from an unexposed area. The sample was composed of 52 adults exposed to the earthquakes and 29 adults in a control group. Three months after the earthquakes, both groups were approached with questions from a survey consisting of the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (HTQ), the Trauma Symptom Checklist (TSC), the Coping Styles Questionnaire (CSQ), the World Assumption Scale (WAS), and the Crisis Support Scale (CSS). The results revealed that 24% in the exposed group had Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and none in the control group had PTSD. Earthquake‐related anxiety, inability to express one's thoughts and feelings, and emotional coping predicted 81% of the HTQ variance for both groups. Previous life events, low self‐worth, and luck attributions, together with numbing and the feeling of being let down, predicted 56% of the symptom variance for both groups. When degree of traumatization and emotional coping were added to the model, another 30% of the variance could be explained.

Current issue:
Bödvarsdóttir, I. & Elklit, A. (2004) Psychological reactions in Icelandic earthquake survivors. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 45(1), 3-13.

Related publications:
Bödvarsdóttir, I., Elklit, A. & Guðmundsdóttir, D. (2006) Posttraumatic stress reactions in children after two large earthquakes in Iceland. Nordic Psychology, 58(2), 91-107.

An explosion in a Danish supertanker under construction in 1994 caused the death of six workers and injured 15. Six months later 270 workers took part in this study, which analyses the relationships between objective stressors, the workers' own feelings and the reactions of their families after the explosion together with training, attitude to the workplace, general outlook, and received crisis help. Traumatisation, coping style and crisis support was assessed via the Impact of Event Scale (IES), the Coping Styles Questionnaire (CSQ) and the Crisis Support Scale (CSS). Emotionally, workers and their families were strongly affected by the explosion. The IESscore was 17.6 and the invasion score 9.1. The degree of traumatisation was higher in the group who had an ‘audience position’ than in the group who was directly hit by the explosion. Training in rescue work did not protect against adverse effects. Rescue work had a strong impact on the involved. Social support was a significant factor, that seems to buffer negative effects. High level of social integration, effective leadership in the situation, and professional crisis intervention characterised the disaster situation. All the same, 41 per cent of the workers reached the caseness criteria by Horowitz (IES ≥ 19).

Current issue:
Elklit, A. (1997) The Aftermath of an Industrial Disaster. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 96, 1-25.

Disasters of any nature whether man made or due to nature's fury are well known to cause a variety of psychological sequelae. One such natural disaster took place in August 2010 in Leh, when cloudburst triggering torrential rains, flash floods and mud slides struck Leh town of Ladakh causing massive destruction to flora and fauna. The present study aims to gauge the effect of number of trauma events previously faced by an individual, positive affect, negative affect and social support on Post Trauma Stress Disorder (PTSD) among 98 (48 female & 50 male) residents of Leh who were exposed to the fury of the cloudburst in one way or the other. Participants were in the age range of 19-76 years with mean age being 33.6 years. Nearly 9 % of the participants reported to be in the diagnosable range of PTSD. Multiple regression analysis further revealed that number of previous trauma events faced by an individual, positive affect, negative affect, and social support together predicted 12.5% variance in PTSD. Relief and rehabilitation programmes to be effective should consider the factors that affect the trauma scores for the well being of individuals.

Current issue:
 Charak, R., Spalzes L. (2011) Exposure to Cloudburst in Leh: Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Associated Factors. Researchgate, 2(2), 79-88.

Related publications:
Charak, R., Armour, C., Elklit, A., Koot, H. M., Elhai, J. D. (2014). Assessing the Latent Factor Association between the Dysphoria model of PTSD and Positive and Negative Affect in Trauma Victims from India. Psychological Injury & Law, 7, 122-130. Doi: 10.1007/s12207-014-9192-0

Charak, R., Armour, C., Elklit, A., Angmo, D., Elhai, J.D. & Koot, H. M. (2014) Factor structure of PTSD and Relationship with gender in Trauma Survivors from India. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 5. Doi: 10.3402/ejpt.v5.25547

While physical infrastructure is quickly rebuilt following a natural disaster, the psychological effects on victims are often neglected. This study investigated symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among adolescents exposed to the 2004 tsunami in Northern Peninsular Malaysia. The randomly selected participants were 216 adolescents living in small villages affected by the tsunami. The study used a cross-sectional design in which PTSD symptoms were assessed with the Child Posttraumatic Stress Reaction Index. Results showed that 8.3% of the participants had severe symptoms of PTSD, 39.8% had moderate symptoms, 42.1% had mild symptoms, and 9.7% had no significant symptoms. Females had significantly higher criterion B symptom scores than males. Multiple regression analysis results indicated that number of lifetime traumas and age were significant predictors of PTSD scores. The prevalence of PTSD symptoms was high even 4 years after the tsunami, a finding consistent with previous studies. The findings are discussed and several recommendations put forward.

Current issue:
Ghazali, S. R., Elklit, A., Yaman, K., & Ahmad, M. (2013) Symptoms of PTSD Among Adolescents in Malaysia 4 Years Following the 2004 Tsunami. Journal of Loss and Trauma, 18, 260-274. Doi: 10.1080/15325024.2012.688703

Related publications:
Armour, C., Ghazali, S. R. & Elklit, A.(2013) PTSD’s latent structure in Malayan tsunami victims: Assessing the newly proposed Dysphoric Arousal model. Psychiatry Research, 206 (1) 26-32. Doi: 10.1016/j.psychres.2012.09.012

The posttraumatic sequelae for 104 adult inhabitants from the town of Flateyri. Iceland, were studied 10 weeks after an avalanche hit the town killing 20 people. Eighty‐seven adults from the neighboring town of Thingeyri constituted a control group. On the basis of the General Health Questionnaire (GHQ‐30), 25% of the Flateyri group (twice as many than in Thingeyri) reached a level of psychiatric caseness. The most common symptoms were intrusive thoughts and feelings, tension, sadness, and anxiety. The loss of family members was associated with symptomatology. A high number of former life events correlated more strongly with distress symptoms than with the individual appraisal of these events. Distress symptoms were related to gender, age, and education.

Current issue:
Finnsdóttir, T. & Elklit, A.(2002) Posttraumatic Sequelae in a Community hit by an Avalanche. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 15 (6), 479-485.
Related publications:
Thordardottir, E. B., Valdimarsdottir, U. A., Hansdottir, I., Hauksdóttir, A., Dyregrov, A., Shipherd, J. C., Elklit, A., Resnick, H., Gudmundsdottir, B. (2017) Sixteen-year follow-up of childhood avalanche survivors. European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 7. Doi: org/10.3402/ejpt.v7.30995

Thordardottir, E. B., Hansdottir , I., Valdimarsdottir, U. A., Resnick, H., Elklit, A., & Gudmundsdottir , B. (2016). Risk Factors for Posttraumatic Stress Symptoms Among Avalanche Survivors: A 16 Year Follow-up. Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. 204(4), 298-305. Doi: 10.1097/NMD.0000000000000475

Haraldsdóttir, H., Gudmundsdóttir, D., Romano, E., Pordardóttir, E., Gudmundsdót-tir, B. & Elklit, A. (2014). Volunteers and Professional Rescue Workers - Traumatization and Adaptation after an Avalanche Disaster in an Isolated Community. Journal of Emergency Management, 12(6), 457-66. Doi: 10.5055/jem.2014.0209.

At present post-disaster activities and plans seem to vary widely. An adequate estimation of the availability of post-disaster psychosocial services across Europe is needed in order to compare them with recently developed evidence-informed psychosocial care guidelines. Here we report on the results of a cross-sectional web-based survey completed in 2008 by two hundred and eighty-six representatives of organizations involved in psychosocial responses to trauma and disaster from thirty-three different countries across Europe. The survey addressed planning and delivery of psychosocial care after disaster, methods of screening and diagnosis, types of interventions used, and other aspects of psychosocial care after trauma. The findings showed that planning and delivery of psychosocial care was inconsistent across Europe. Countries in East Europe seemed to have less central coordination of the post-disaster psychosocial response and fewer post-disaster guidelines that were integrated into specific disaster or contingency plans. Several forms of psychological debriefing, for which there is no evidence of efficacy to date, were still used in several areas particularly in North Europe. East European countries delivered evidence-based interventions for PTSD less frequently, whilst in South- and South-Eastern European countries anxiety suppressing medication such as benzodiazepines were prescribed more frequently to disaster victims than in other areas. Countries across Europe are currently providing sub-optimal psychosocial care for disaster victims. This short report shows that there is an urgent need for some countries to abandon non-effective interventions and others to develop more evidence based and effective services to facilitate the care of those involved in future disasters.

Our survey shows key needs in planning and delivery of post-disaster psychosocial care in different European areas.
East Europe lacks central coordination of psychosocial response, disaster plans and evidence-based interventions for PTSD.
In South- and South-East Europe prescription of anxiety suppressing medication after trauma takes place relatively often.
In North Europe several forms of psychological debriefing are still delivered relatively often.

Current issue: 
Witteveen, A.B., Bisson, J. I., Bolding, H. B., Ajdukovic, D., Arnberg, F., Elklit, A., Jehel, L., Johannesson, K. B., Johansen, V. A., Lis-Turlejska, M., Nordanger, D. A., Orengo–García, F., Polak, A. R., Punamaki, R.-L., Schnyder, U., Wittmann, L., & Olff, M.(2012) Post-disaster Psychosocial Services across Europe: the TENTS project. Social Science and Medicine, 75, 1708-1714. Doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2012.06.017
Related publications:
Witteveen, A.B., Bisson, I. J., Ajdukovic, D., Bergh-Johannesen, K., Gurris, N., Johansen, V., Nordanger, D., Garcia, F. O., Punamäki, R.L., Sezgin, A. U., Elklit, A., Freeman, C., Jehel, L., Lis-Turlejska, M., Schnyder, U., Lueger-Schuster, B., Witt-mann, L., & Olff, M.(2010) The European Network for Traumatic Stress (TENTS). Traumatic Stress Points, 24(2), 7-8.

In response to a rise in extremism among Western youth, a new wave of research is addressing the interaction between adolescent development and extremism. This coincides with a renewed interest in psychological vulnerabilities, following a long period where psychological factors—narrowly defined as diagnosed mental illnesses—were considered to be poorly correlated with extremism. Given the impact of psychological vulnerabilities on adolescent development, this life phase is of particular relevance to understanding the relationship between psychological vulnerabilities and extremism. In this review, twenty-five peer-reviewed empirical studies are analyzed with the aim of taking stock of current understandings of the effect of psychological vulnerabilities on young Westerners’ propensity to endorse or engage in extremism. Six main categories of factors are observed: mental illness, traumatic experiences, early socialization, perceived discrimination, social capital and delinquency. These factors, indicative of psychological vulnerabilities, seem to play a critical role in the development of extremism among Western youth. It also appears that adolescence, a period of identity and ideology formation, influences these relationships. Overall, this review implies that the previous focus on the psychology of extremism has been too narrow. Future research should expand its scope to examine factors indicative of psychological vulnerabilities.

Current issue: 
Harpviken, A.N. (2019) Psychological Vulnerabilities and Extremism Among Western Youth: A Literature Review. Adolescent Research Review. Doi: 10.1007/s40894-019-00108-y
Related publications:
Elklit, A.(2016): Danske erfaringer med psykosociale indsatser efter katastrofer og terror. Videnscenter for Psykotraumatologi.
Elklit, A. (2005) Forberedt på terror? Psykolog Nyt, 59(14), 30-31.


Last Updated 07.11.2020