zondag 3 juli 2005

The Role of the Media and Media Hypes in the Aftermath of Disasters

·      The Role of the Media and Media Hypes in the Aftermath of Disasters

Peter Vasterman 1
C. Joris Yzermans 2
3. Anja J. E. Dirkzwager 2
Received July 29, 2004.
Accepted November 9, 2004.
Key words
MPI, mass psychogenic illness

It is hardly a surprise that disasters occur more often now than in the past: the world is getting more crowded, air traffic is busier, terrorists are operating worldwide, and the world is much more dependent on complex, but vulnerable technological systems. In the database of the Center for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, an increase was found in the number of disasters worldwide. During the decade 1970–1979, 1,230 disasters were registered; in the 1980s, this figure was 2,856; and, in the 1990s, 4,790 disasters were listed. For the years 2000–2003, more than 3,000 disasters were reported (1). Disasters can be defined as acute, collectively experienced traumatic events with a sudden onset, and they can be both natural (e.g., hurricanes, floods, earthquakes) and man-made (e.g., plane crashes, industrial accidents, terrorist attacks) (2).
A growing body of literature suggests that disasters can have both short-term and long-term health consequences for the victims involved, such as posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, anxiety, or substance abuse (2,3). Increased self-reports of nonspecific psychological distress and medically unexplained physical symptoms (e.g., fatigue, headache, difficulty concentrating, joint/muscle pain) have been noted following disasters as well, for instance, after the Three Mile Island nuclear accident in Pennsylvania (4), the Buffalo Creek dam disaster in West Virginia (5), and the Amsterdam air disaster in the Netherlands (67). Similar symptoms were also reported by veterans after their involvement in traumatic military situations, such as the first Gulf War (8).