Adolescents’ perspectives on the psychological effects of natural disasters in China and Nepal

Elizabeth A. Newnham, Xue Gao, Jessica Tearne, Bhushan Guragain, Feng Jiao, Lajina Ghimire, Emily Y.Y. Chan, Jennifer Leaning

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


Adolescents are disproportionately represented in nations vulnerable to humanitarian crises. The mental health effects of exposure to trauma are significant, but evidence concerning the experience of disaster-affected adolescents in Asia is limited. The current study aimed to investigate expressions of psychological distress and behavioral effects of exposure to natural disasters among adolescents in China and Nepal. Key informant interviews and focus group discussions were conducted with adolescents, caregivers, teachers and experts in disaster-affected districts of Yunnan Province, China (n = 79), and Kathmandu Valley, Nepal (n = 62). Open coding and thematic content analysis were employed to examine themes within the data. Indicators of distress were categorized in four domains that reflected expressions of anxiety and stress, mood difficulties, somatic complaints, and behavioral changes for adolescent disaster survivors. Differential reports of psychological concerns by gender were evident in Nepal but not China. Post-traumatic growth and strengthened connections between adolescents and their families were described in both settings. The findings complement similar reports from disaster-affected populations globally that have highlighted cross-cultural elements manifest in adolescents’ descriptions of distress. Sustainable mental health services that are sensitive to adolescents’ experiences of trauma and their unique capabilities will be a necessary component of long-term rehabilitation following disasters.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)197-211
Number of pages15
JournalTranscultural Psychiatry
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2020


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