Exposure to conflict and disaster: A national survey on the prevalence of psychotic experiences in Sri Lanka

Arune Keraite*, Athula Sumathipala, Chesmal Siriwardhana, Craig Morgan, Uli Reininghaus

*Corresponding author for this work

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Recent research conducted in high-income countries suggests psychotic experiences are common in the general population, but evidence from low- and middle-income countries (LMIC) remains limited. Sri Lanka is a LMIC affected by three decades of civil conflict and, in 2004, a devastating tsunami. This study aimed to investigate the prevalence of psychotic experiences in a general population sample in Sri Lanka and associations with conflict- and tsunami-related trauma. This is a first National Mental Health Survey conducted in Sri Lanka. A cross-sectional, multi-stage, cluster sampling design was used to estimate the prevalence of psychotic symptoms. Data on socio-demographic characteristics, conflict- and tsunami-related trauma, and psychotic experiences were collected using culturally validated measures in a sample of 5927 participants. The weighted prevalence of psychotic symptoms was 9.7%. Exposure to one or more conflict-related events (adj. OR 1.79, 95% CI 1.40-2.31, p <0.001) and loss or injury of a family member or friend through conflict (adj. OR, 1.83, 95% CI 1.42-2.37, p <0.001) were associated with increased odds of reporting psychotic experiences. Psychotic experiences were more common in individuals directly exposed to tsunami disaster (adj. OR, 1.68, 95% CI 1.04-2.73, P = 0.035) and in those who had a family member who died or was injured as result of tsunami (adj. OR, 1.42, 95% CI 1.04-1.94, p = 0.029). Our findings suggest that psychotic experiences are common in the Sri Lankan population. Exposure to traumatic events in armed conflicts and natural disasters may be important socio-environmental factors in the development of psychotic experiences.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-85
JournalSchizophrenia Research
Issue number1-3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2016


  • Psychotic experiences
  • Trauma
  • Sri Lanka
  • National survey

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