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BACKGROUND: The main aims of the study were to assess psychological morbidity among adults nine months after a car bomb explosion in the town of Omagh, Northern Ireland and to identify predictors of chronic posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms. METHOD: A questionnaire was sent to all adults in households in The Omagh District Council area. The questionnaire comprised established predictors of PTSD (such as pre-trauma personal characteristics, type of exposure, initial emotional response and long-term adverse physical or financial problems), predictors derived from the Ehlers and Clark (2000) cognitive model, a measure of PTSD symptoms and the General Health Questionnaire. RESULTS: Among respondents (n = 3131) the highest rates of PTSD symptoms and probable casesness (58.5%) were observed among people who were present in the street when the bomb exploded but elevated rates were also observed in people who subsequently attended the scene (21.8% probable caseness) and among people for whom someone close died (11.9%). People with a near miss (left the scene before the explosion) did not show elevated rates. Exposure to the bombing increased PTSD symptoms to a greater extent than general psychiatric symptoms. Previously established predictors accounted for 42% of the variance in PTSD symptoms among people directly exposed to the bombing. Predictors derived from the cognitive model accounted for 63%. CONCLUSIONS: High rates of chronic PTSD were observed in individuals exposed to the bombing. Psychological variables that are in principle amenable to treatment were the best predictors of PTSD symptoms. Teams planning treatment interventions for victims of future bombings and other traumas may wish to take these results into account.

Original publication




Journal article


PLoS One

Publication Date





Cluster Analysis, Explosions, History, 20th Century, Ireland, Linear Models, Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic, Surveys and Questionnaires, Terrorism