Centre for Crisis Psychology
Follow-up study

Bereaved parents, siblings and close friends after the terror attack at Utøya, July 22nd, 2011

Physical and mental health reactions among family members beraved by the 2011 terror incident at Utøya Island in Norway. An 8-year follow-up study.

Main content

The sudden and unexpected death of a loved one in a terror incident is a devastating experience for the next-of-kin. While terror incidents are happening quite frequently around the world, we know surprisingly little about potential long-term health consequences for those who are bereaved. Additionally, knowledge of their need for professional help and healthcare utilization (including barriers to help-seeking) is scarce. This study will address some of these knowledge gaps in the bereavement field.

Objective/research questions
The aim of this study is to map physical and mental health reactions in bereaved parents, siblings and close friends 8 years after the 2011 terror incident at Utøya Island in Norway. Predictors of health problems are examined. We have also explored bereaved’s self-reported need for professional help and satisfaction with health care utililization in relation to other kinds of support (peer support and social support). The overall aim is to generate knowledge that health authorities can use when planning for future incidents.

Design and methods
This study is the fourth- wave of a longitudinal, prospective study of bereaved parents, siblings and close friends of those who were killed om Utøya Island in 2011. Earlier data collections have been collected at 18 months (Wave 1), 28 months (Wave 2) and 40 months (Wave 3). In Wave 4, 8 years after the incident, we have gathered survey data from 164 persons and conducted 22 semi-structured interviews with bereaved parents.

Time frame
The time frame of the study is 2018-2025 and will involve two doctoral students doing their PhD on the data. In addition, several other papers will be published and communicated both through peer-reviewed scientific papers and brief chronicles towards the general public.

Scientific Papers

  • Anita Fjærestad, Pål Kristensen, Atle Dyregrov & Signe Hjelen Stige (2023) Grief trajectories among bereaved parents after the 2011 Utøya terror attack: A qualitative analysis, Death Studies, 47:7, 847-860, DOI: 10.1080/07481187.2022.2135045
  • Erik-Edwin Leonard Nordström, Jens C.  Thimm, Riittakerttu Kaltiala & Pål Kristensen (2022). Prolonged grief, post-traumatic stress, and functional impairment in parents and siblings 8 years after the 2011 Utøya terror attack, European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 13:2, DOI: 10.1080/20008066.2022.2152930
  • Nordström, E. E. L., Kaltiala, R., Kristensen, P., & Thimm, J. C. (2024). Somatic symptoms and insomnia among bereaved parents and siblings eight years after the Utøya terror attack. European journal of Psychotraumatology, 15(1), 2300585.
  • Iren Johnsen, Julia Sande Mikkelsen, Aurora Aarhus Opheim & Rolf Gjestad (2023) To lose a friend: the relationship between professional help and grief among close bereaved friends after the terror attack, 22 July 2011, European Journal of Psychotraumatology, 14:2, DOI: 10.1080/20008066.2023.2264118