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Peer Support Buffers Teen Depression After Terror Attack

Study among Israeli adolescents points to need for social network when terrorism threatens

MONDAY, July 13 (HealthDay News) -- Social support from friends can help buffer depression among adolescents in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, according to a study published online July 13 in Pediatrics.

Golan Shahar, Ph.D., of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Beer-Sheva, Israel, and colleagues investigated 90 seventh, eighth and ninth graders in the Israeli town of Dimona, before and after a suicide bombing killed one person and injured 38 others. Seven months before the bombing, they completed questionnaires as part of a study on youth risk and resilience under stress. For the present study, the researchers followed up by telephone to assess the effect of social support from friends, parents, and school personnel on bombing-related stress and depression.

The researchers found an increase in levels of depression after the bombing compared to before (β = 0.29). This depression was buffered by prebombing social support from friends (β = −0.29), and was increased for those who reported low levels of support from friends (β = 0.61). The study did not indicate that social support from family or school protected or buffered against the depressive effects of bombing-related stress.

"Pediatricians, child psychiatrists, public health professionals, and other mental health experts are advised to build on social support from peers in devising preventive interventions and preparedness measures in the face of terrorism," the authors conclude.

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