Returning to school after a terror attack: A longitudinal study of school functioning and health in terror-exposed youth

European Child & Adolescent Psychiatry - Journal Article

Terrorist attacks and mass shootings often involve youth. Knowledge is needed on how this may impact their health and functioning. This study investigates perceived academic performance and school wellbeing in 237 terror-exposed survivors of the Utøya youth camp attack according to their sociodemographic characteristics, health and mental health service (MHS) utilization. Semi-structured interviews were conducted after 4-5 and 14-15 months. The year following the attack, 143 (61%) survivors reported impaired academic performance and 66 (29%) impaired school wellbeing. Female survivors more often reported impaired performance. Non-Norwegian origin, being financially disadvantaged and less social support were associated with impaired wellbeing. Sleep problems, posttraumatic stress, anxiety/depression, somatic symptoms, and lower life satisfaction were associated with both impaired performance and impaired wellbeing. Survivors who had received MHS were more likely to report impaired or improved academic performance and school wellbeing. Higher age and posttraumatic stress reactions were associated with impaired academic performance after multivariate logistic regression adjustments for gender, somatic symptoms and social support. When additionally adjusting for impaired school wellbeing, age and impaired wellbeing were associated with impaired performance. Only posttraumatic stress reactions were associated with impaired wellbeing after similar adjustments. Non-Norwegian origin and being financially disadvantaged were not significantly associated with impaired wellbeing after adjusting for posttraumatic stress reactions, age and gender. Our findings demonstrate how a terrorist attack can considerably deteriorate young survivors' performance and wellbeing at school, which is associated with poorer health. Consequently, it is important to provide appropriate school support, and coordinate MHS with follow-up at school.

Extra: Edition: 20180712

L. E. Stene, J. H. Schultz, G. Dyb
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