Is mindfulness protective against PTSD? A neurocognitive study of 25 Tsunami disaster survivors
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Background: It has been suggested that mindfulness is a protective factor that buffers individuals from experiencing severe posttraumatic stress following exposure to a trauma. We aimed to examine the association between dispositional (trait) mindfulness and posttraumatic stress in individuals who had been exposed to the trauma of a natural disaster. Method: A disaster group (n = 25) consisting of Norwegian tourists who survived the 2004 South East Asian tsunami at a location with high mortality rates was recruited. Dispositional mindfulness and posttraumatic stress were measured with the Five-Facet Mindfulness Questionnaire and the Impact of Event Scale-Revised Version, respectively. Results: There was no significant association between mindfulness and posttraumatic stress. Moreover, there were no significant associations between posttraumatic stress and the mindfulness sub-facets of observing, acting with awareness, non-judging, and non-reacting. However, there was a significant positive correlation between the descriptive factor of mindfulness and IES-R total. There were no significant linear correlations between the five sub-facets of mindfulness and the three categories of posttraumatic symptoms, intrusion, avoidance and hyper-arousal. Conclusions: Our findings do not indicate a relationship between dispositional mindfulness and posttraumatic stress levels after exposure to a trauma, except for the descriptive sub-facet of mindfulness and here the correlation is positive and not negative as would be expected if mindfulness is a protective factor for posttraumatic stress. Future studies should investigate the relationship between mindfulness and posttraumatic stress while accounting for factors such as trauma history, type of trauma, and individual differences in traumatic stress reactions.