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Study explored impact of Russian invasion on mental health in Ukraine – Adolescents in war-region experienced high war trauma and daily stress

Washington D.C | March 7, 2023

studyopens in new tab/window in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (JAACAP), published by Elsevier, reports that adolescents in the war-torn Donetsk region were over four times more likely to have PTSD than in the more peaceful Kirovograd region in 2016-2017, over two years following start of the Russia–Ukraine war.

The cross-sectional study included 2,766 adolescent students living in the war-impacted Donetsk region and the more peaceful Kirovograd region of Ukraine.  The study was based on data collected from September 2016 to January 2017, that is, more than two years after Russia first invaded Ukraine in 2014.

“This study showed that adolescents in the war-impacted Donetsk region had experienced high war trauma and daily stress. Of adolescents living in this area: 60% had witnessed armed attacks or explosions, 14% were victims of violence, about 30% were forced to leave their homes, and nearly 13% were separated from parents or family members” says Professor Olga Osokina from Donetsk National Medical University.

Adolescents in the Donetsk region were more than four times more likely to have PTSD, just over three times more likely to have severe anxiety and nearly three times more likely to have moderately severe or severe depression compared to adolescents in the more peaceful Kirovograd region. The study also found elevated rates of anxiety and depression in adolescents living in the non-war-affected region.

Non-violent war trauma can influence mental health in the same way as direct war violence. Increased risk for PTSD was associated not only with exposure to violence but also to non-violent trauma caused by the war, including forced relocation and loss of social support.

“Back in 2016, most of the adolescents in the Donetsk region continued living with their intact families, did not lose family members, and did not have to leave their homes. This is important, as maintaining social support with family and friends protects against the development of PTSD. However, the current situation is worse when adolescents in the whole of Ukraine are experiencing full-scale invasion by Russia and many families are forced to flee their homes. We can expect that large numbers of adolescents will have very high levels of psychological distress and many might develop mental disorders,” says Professor Andre Sourander from the University of Turku. Additionally, he notes: “During war, adolescents are exposed to atrocities, organized violence, loss of social networks and resettlement during crucial phases of their physical, emotional, social and cognitive development. The psychological impact that the war in Ukraine will have on adolescents cannot be understated and countries that accept refugees also need to be aware of the need to provide them with timely and effective mental health services.”

This article is a part of a larger study which will also examine the impact of current war situation on the mental health of Ukrainian children and adolescents.


Notes for editors

The article is "Impact of the Russian Invasion on Mental Health of Adolescents in Ukraine," by Olga Osokina, MD, PhD, Sanju Silwal, PhD, Tatiana Bohdanova, PhD , Matthew Hodes, MBBS, Andre Sourander, MD, PhD , Norbert Skokauskas, MD, PhD ( in new tab/window). It appears in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, volume 62, issue 3 (March 2023), published by Elsevier.

Copies of this paper are available to credentialed journalists upon request; please contact Andre Sourander, MD, PhD at [email protected]opens in new tab/window or +358 50 365 3447   .


Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatryopens in new tab/window (JAACAP) is the official publication of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. JAACAP is the leading journal focusing exclusively on today's psychiatric research and treatment of the child and adolescent. Published twelve times per year, each issue is committed to its mission of advancing the science of pediatric mental health and promoting the care of youth and their families.

The Journal's purpose is to advance research, clinical practice, and theory in child and adolescent psychiatry. It is interested in manuscripts from diverse viewpoints, including genetic, epidemiological, neurobiological, cognitive, behavioral, psychodynamic, social, cultural, and economic. Studies of diagnostic reliability and validity, psychotherapeutic and psychopharmacological treatment efficacy, and mental health services effectiveness are encouraged. The Journal also seeks to promote the well-being of children and families by publishing scholarly papers on such subjects as health policy, legislation, advocacy, culture and society, and service provision as they pertain to the mental health of children and families.

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