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Mental Health - Non-Clinical Medicine - Public Health and Epidemiology - Surgery

The Long-Term Impact of Physical and Emotional Trauma: The Station Nightclub Fire
Published: Monday, October 15, 2012
Author: Jeffrey C. Schneider et al.

by Jeffrey C. Schneider, Nhi-Ha T. Trinh, Elizabeth Selleck, Felipe Fregni, Sara S. Salles, Colleen M. Ryan, Joel Stein


Survivors of physical and emotional trauma experience enduring occupational, psychological and quality of life impairments. Examining survivors from a large fire provides a unique opportunity to distinguish the impact of physical and emotional trauma on long-term outcomes. The objective is to detail the multi-dimensional long-term effects of a large fire on its survivor population and assess differences in outcomes between survivors with and without physical injury.

Methods and Findings

This is a survey-based cross-sectional study of survivors of The Station fire on February 20, 2003. The relationships between functional outcomes and physical injury were evaluated with multivariate regression models adjusted for pre-injury characteristics and post-injury outcomes. Outcome measures include quality of life (Burn Specific Health Scale–Brief), employment (time off work), post-traumatic stress symptoms (Impact of Event Scale–Revised) and depression symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory). 104 fire survivors completed the survey; 47% experienced a burn injury. There was a 42% to 72% response rate range. Although depression and quality of life were associated with burn injury in univariate analyses (p<0.05), adjusted analyses showed no significant relationship between burn injury and these outcomes (p?=?0.91; p?=?.51). Post-traumatic stress symptoms were not associated with burn injury in the univariate (p?=?0.13) or adjusted analyses (p?=?0.79). Time off work was the only outcome in which physical injury remained significant in the multivariate analysis (p?=?0.03).


Survivors of this large fire experienced significant life disruption, including occupational, psychological and quality of life sequelae. The findings suggest that quality of life, depression and post-traumatic stress outcomes are related to emotional trauma, not physical injury. However, physical injury is correlated with employment outcomes. The long-term impact of this traumatic event underscores the importance of longitudinal and mental health care for trauma survivors, with attention to those with and without physical injuries.