An Assessment of PTSD Symptoms among Guatemalan Demographic and Health Survey Participants in Active Civil War vs. Post-Civil War Periods

by Chris Burke
Feb 11

As a Guatemalan-American of K’iche’ descent, I aim to apply social and translational science research designs to characterize the psychological effects of the Guatemalan Civil War on the country’s indigenous and Afro-Latino communities. While the Guatemalan Civil War lasted from 1960 to 1995, the political aftermath continues to uphold the existing mental, economic, and social disparities between the targeted indigenous/afro-indigenous communities and the urban, mestizo community.

Under the guidance of Elizabeth Herman (A10) and Justine Davis of the University of California (Berkeley) Political Science Department, I designed an experiment to review existing data from the Guatemalan Demographic and Health Survey (DHS) database, specifically survey responses from 1992, 2005, and 2016. I began by stratifying the respondents by ethnicity, including the four most prominent ethnic groups of Mayan indigenous, Mestize, Garifuna, and Xina. Using STATA software, I created subgroups within each ethnicity based on level of education. I then plotted the self-reported level of fear by the previously established ethnic and educational groups.

The results showed that, in 1992, non-urban communities of color (Mayan, Garifuna, and Xinca) showed a statistically significant higher level of self-reported fear in comparison to the Mestize population. But by 2005, there was no longer a significant difference between the Mestize and Xinca populations. And from the 2016 DHS data, solely the Mayan indigenous population demonstrated significantly elevated levels of self-reported fear. Taken together, this data analysis suggests that over the post-conflict years, levels of self-reported fear may decrease.

Our findings exemplify the importance of data analysis over time and the investigation of novel policies to respond to communities in need. Numerous studies exist investigating the behavioral and social differences between the indigenous and Mestize community. However, few publications exist studying the psychological effects from the Civil War on these communities. Thus, our research provides an example and outline of the applications of similar investigations.