Health consequences of differences in emotional processing and reactivity following the 1997 earthquake in Central Italy
The aim of the investigation was to assess the effects of individual differences in emotional processing on health outcomes in persons experiencing the 1997 earthquake in Central Italy. Thirty-nine subjects were examined one month after the event with Toronto Alexithymia Scale (TAS-20), Impact of Event Scale (IES) and a short interview. Interviews were recorded, transcribed and scored for Referential Activity (RA), reflecting 'translation' of non-verbal activation into language. Six months after initial assessment, subjects reported their health in that period. Each subject's report was rated on three health dimensions: sickness, how physically sick a subject was; distress, how emotionally distressed a subject was; illness behaviour, how often a subject went to see the doctor. Multiple regressions were performed: TAS-20 predicted sickness, IES total predicted distress, while both age and RA predicted illness behaviour. Different parallel levels emerge from the data: a 'here and now' level, linking an intrusive and/or avoidant reaction to the earthquake with subjective distress; a 'deeper', 'structural' level linking a trait difficulty in regulating emotions with the occurrence of actual physical disease. The positive correlation of RA with illness behaviour may be interpreted as an index of general activation of a capacity to seek help.
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