Understanding community disruption in the aftermath of earthquakes: the 2009 L’Aquila and 2016 Amatrice earthquakes in central Italy

D'Errico, Danila (2020) Understanding community disruption in the aftermath of earthquakes: the 2009 L’Aquila and 2016 Amatrice earthquakes in central Italy. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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For many years, the main focus of psychological research related to the impact earthquakes have on individuals has mainly concentrated on the development and prevalence of psychological disorders among survivors, especially PTSD, Anxiety and Depression. However, only a small subset of people actually meets all of the criteria to receive a psychiatric diagnosis.

Italy, one of the most seismic countries in Europe, has a long history of large earthquakes. Italy’s rich history of architecture leaves many of its villages at risk whenever an earthquake hits. In recent years, Central Italy has experienced several earthquakes of significant magnitude. Between 2009 (L’Aquila) and 2016 (Amatrice), over 600 people lost their lives and entire communities have been completely destroyed as a consequence of these earthquakes. Both the 2009 L’Aquila and the 2016 Amatrice earthquakes have led to severe community disruption which has negatively affected residents’ psychological sense of community, bond with their environment, and future expectations. This was mainly caused by the loss of meeting places which mostly collapsed or were damaged during the earthquake (e.g. town centres, restaurants, cafes, local shops, churches, and schools) and by the temporary and permanent relocation of survivors. Some of these aspects were further aggravated and/or initiated by the decisions made by local and national authorities as residents’ voices and needs were very rarely heard and respected.

Multiple factors contribute to the development of mental illness in disasters’ survivors, among these post-disaster factors (such as community disruption, lack of social support, living in temporary house, permanent relocation). This PhD aimed to develop our understanding of the impact of earthquakes on survivors and their communities. The emphasis will be on those post-disaster factors that can lead to severe negative consequences long-term, not only for each resident, but for their entire community.

Three different qualitative studies were carried out. The pilot, Study One, aimed at developing the protocol for a new unique qualitative interviewing technique that has not been used before at the site of a natural disaster: walking interviews, and to evaluate its effectiveness for the purpose of this study. Study two aimed at examining participants’ experiences of the earthquakes with a particular focus on the social consequences experienced by survivors. Finally, Study Three aimed at exploring participants’ shared understanding of the earthquake and community disruption by using focus groups. Study Two and Three also aimed to explore the possible differences between the two towns as not only the earthquakes occurred at different points in time (L’Aquila in 2009 and Amatrice in 2016), but also their social structures differ on several levels.

In addition, this research provides evidence for the effectiveness of the walking interviews methodology in the context of earthquakes. It provided the opportunity for participants and the interviewer to share powerful thoughts and emotions in relation to specific sites that were of importance to the participant. Walking interviews explored the relationship between what people say and where they say it which shows the importance of the environment as a co-producer of dialogue.

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Hunt, Nigel
Hadziosmanovic, Emina
Keywords: Earthquakes, Community disruption, IPA walking interviews, Focus groups, Thematic analysis
Subjects: W Medicine and related subjects (NLM Classification) > WM Psychiatry
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences > School of Medicine
Item ID: 61438
Depositing User: D'Errico, Danila
Date Deposited: 26 Nov 2020 08:50
Last Modified: 26 Nov 2020 09:00
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/61438

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