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Health consequences of differences in emotional processing and reactivity following the 1997 earthquake in Central Italy

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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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Document Type: Original Article

Publication date: August 1, 2001

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