Research suggests that post-traumatic stress (PTS) symptoms are common after the experience of bushfire. However, the ways in which individuals cope with, positively grow from, and find benefit in the adverse circumstances of bushfire in Australia has not been adequately explored. The main objective of this study is to assess the relationship between PTS, coping strategies and post-traumatic growth, in a sample of Australian community members affected by a bushfire event.
Sixty-five participants (mean age 40.66 years, SD=13.57), who had previously experienced a bushfire event in Australia, responded to an anonymous online survey.
Results indicated that greater PTS was associated with the use of all coping strategies, as well as higher levels of post-traumatic growth. The use of coping strategies was associated with higher levels of post-traumatic growth. Hierarchical regression analyses found that post-traumatic growth and avoidant coping explained significant amounts of unique variance in PTS, whereas PTS and emotion-focussed coping explained significant amounts of unique variance in post-traumatic growth.
In communities that are seasonally threatened by bushfires, our findings suggest that not only are post-disaster stress reduction interventions required, but so too are preparedness programs that include strategies for promoting growth and positive adaptation. It is suggested further research should address implications for strength-based preparedness and recovery programs in bushfire prone areas.
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