Causal thinking after a tsunami wave: Karma beliefs, pessimistic explanatory style and health among sri lankan survivors

Becca R. Levy, Martin D. Slade, Padmini Ranasinghe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


In 2004, one of the largest earthquakes ever recorded led to a tsunami devastating two-thirds of the Sri Lankan coastline. We examined whether certain causal beliefs (attributional style and karma, a Buddhist concept used to explain bad events) are associated with tsunami survivors experiencing PTSD and poor health about six months later. Previous studies of causal beliefs associated with illness following the same traumatic event have focused on Western countries and none have considered the role of karma. We interviewed 264 Sri Lankan tsunami survivors. As predicted, we found that belief in karma and a pessimistic explanatory style are independently associated with poor health and a pessimistic explanatory style is associated with PTSD, after adjusting for relevant factors. Thus, both universal and more culturally specific beliefs may contribute to coping following a natural disaster.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)38-45
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Religion and Health
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 1 2009



  • Disaster
  • Explanatory style
  • Health
  • Karma
  • Religion

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)
  • Religious studies

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