Toward a better understanding of psychological symptoms in people confronted with the disappearance of a loved one: A systematic review

Lonneke I. M. Lenferink, Jos de Keijser, Ineke Wessel, Doety de Vries , Paul A. Boelen

OnderzoeksoutputAcademicpeer review

35 Citaten (Scopus)
244 Downloads (Pure)


The disappearance of a loved one is claimed to be the most stressful type of loss. The present review explores the empirical evidence relating to this claim. Specifically, it summarizes studies exploring the prevalence and correlates of psychological symptoms in relatives of missing persons, as well as studies comparing levels of psychopathology in relatives of the disappeared and the deceased.
Two independent reviewers performed a systematic search in Psychinfo, Web of Science, and Medline, which resulted in 15 studies meeting predefined inclusion criteria. Eligible studies included quantitative peer-reviewed articles and dissertations that assessed psychopathology in relatives of missing persons.
All reviewed studies were focused on disappearances due to war or state terrorism. Prevalence rates of psychopathology were mainly described in terms of posttraumatic stress disorder and depression and varied considerably among the studies. Number of experienced traumatic events and kinship to the missing person were identified as correlates of psychopathology. Comparative studies showed that psychopathology levels did not differ between relatives of missing and deceased persons.
The small number of studies and the heterogeneity of the studies limits the understanding of psychopathology in those left behind. More knowledge about psychopathology post-disappearance could be gained by expanding the focus of research beyond disappearances due to war or state terrorism.
Originele taal-2English
Pagina's (van-tot)287-302
Aantal pagina's16
TijdschriftTrauma, Violence, & Abuse
Nummer van het tijdschrift3
Vroegere onlinedatum21-mrt.-2017
StatusPublished - jul.-2019

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