Although disaster causes distress, many disaster victims do not develop long-term psychopathology. Others report benefits after traumatic experiences (post-traumatic growth). The objective of this study was to examine demographic and hurricane-related predictors of resilience and post-traumatic growth.
222 pregnant southern Louisiana women were interviewed, and 292 postpartum women completed interviews at delivery and eight weeks later. Resilience was measured by scores lower than a non-affected population, using the Edinburgh Depression Scale and the Post-Traumatic Stress Checklist (PCL). Post-traumatic growth was measured by questions about perceived benefits of the storm. Women were asked about their experience of the hurricane, addressing danger, illness/injury, and damage. Chi-square tests and log-Poisson models were used to calculate associations and relative risks (RR) for demographics, hurricane experience, and mental health resilience and perceived benefit.
35% of pregnant and 34% of the postpartum women were resilient from depression, while 56% and 49% were resilient from post-traumatic stress disorder. Resilience was most likely among white women, older women, and women who had a partner. A greater experience of the storm, particularly injury/illness or danger, was associated with lower resilience. Experiencing damage due to the storm was associated with increased report of some perceived benefits.
Many pregnant and postpartum women are resilient from the mental health consequences of disaster, and perceive benefits after a traumatic experience. Certain aspects of experiencing disaster reduce resilience, but may increase perceived benefit.
resilience; depression; postpartum; pregnancy; disaster; post-traumatic stress disorder
Hurricane Katrina, which struck the Gulf Coast of the United States in August 2005, exposed area residents to trauma and extensive property loss. However, little is known about the long-run effects of the hurricane on the mental health of those who were exposed. This study documents long-run changes in mental health among a particularly vulnerable group—low income mothers—from before to after the hurricane, and identifies factors that are associated with different recovery trajectories. Longitudinal surveys of 532 low-income mothers from New Orleans were conducted approximately one year before, 7 to 19 months after, and 43 to 54 months after Hurricane Katrina. The surveys collected information on mental health, social support, earnings and hurricane experiences. We document changes in post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS), as measured by the Impact of Event Scale-Revised, and symptoms of psychological distress (PD), as measured by the K6 scale. We find that although PTSS has declined over time after the hurricane, it remained high 43 to 54 months later. PD also declined, but did not return to pre-hurricane levels. At both time periods, psychological distress before the hurricane, hurricane-related home damage, and exposure to traumatic events were associated with PTSS that co-occurred with PD. Hurricane-related home damage and traumatic events were associated with PTSS without PD. Home damage was an especially important predictor of chronic PTSS, with and without PD. Most hurricane stressors did not have strong associations with PD alone over the short or long run. Over the long run, higher earnings were protective against PD, and greater social support was protective against PTSS. These results indicate that mental health problems, particularly PTSS alone or in co-occurrence with PD, among Hurricane Katrina survivors remain a concern, especially for those who experienced hurricane-related trauma and had poor mental health or low socioeconomic status before the hurricane.
Mental health; natural disasters; Hurricane Katrina; USA; women
Exposure to multiple traumatic events and high rates of mental health problems are common among juvenile offenders. This study draws on Conservation of Resources (COR) stress theory to examine the impact of a specific trauma, Hurricane Katrina, relative to other adverse life events on the mental health of female adolescent offenders in Mississippi. Teenage girls (N = 258, 69% African American) were recruited from 4 juvenile detention centers and the state training school. Participants were interviewed about the occurrence and timing of adverse life events and hurricane-related experiences and completed a self-administered mental health assessment. Hierarchical linear regression models were used to identify predictors of anxiety and depression. Pre-hurricane family stressors, pre-hurricane traumatic events, hurricane-related property damage, and receipt of hurricane-related financial assistance significantly predicted symptoms of anxiety and depression. Findings support COR theory. Family stressors had the greatest influence on symptoms of anxiety and depression, highlighting the need for family-based services that address the multiple, inter-related problems and challenges in the lives of female juvenile offenders.
female juvenile offenders; hurricane exposure; family stressors; anxiety; depression
Little is known about the effects of natural disasters on pregnancy outcomes. We studied mental health and birth outcomes among women exposed to Hurricane Katrina.
We collected data prospectively from a cohort of 301 women from New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Pregnant women were interviewed during pregnancy about their experiences during the hurricane, as well as whether they had experienced symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and/or depression. High hurricane exposure was defined as having three or more of the eight severe hurricane experiences, such as feeling that one's life was in danger, walking through floodwaters, or having a loved one die.
The frequency of low birth weight was higher in women with high hurricane exposure (14.0%) than women without high hurricane exposure (4.7%), with an adjusted odds ratio (aOR): 3.3; 95% confidence interval (CI): 1.13−9.89; p<0.01. The frequency of preterm birth was higher in women with high hurricane exposure (14.0%) than women without high hurricane exposure (6.3%), with aOR: 2.3; 95% CI: 0.82−6.38; p>0.05. There were no significant differences in the frequency of low birth weight or preterm birth between women with PTSD or depression and women without PTSD or depression (p>0.05).
Women who had high hurricane exposure were at an increased risk of having low birth weight infants. Rather than a general exposure to disaster, exposure to specific severe disaster events and the intensity of the disaster experience may be better predictors of poor pregnancy outcomes. To prevent poor pregnancy outcomes during and after disasters, future disaster preparedness may need to include the planning of earlier evacuation of pregnant women to minimize their exposure to severe disaster events.
Depression; disaster; low birth weight; post-traumatic stress disorder; pregnancy
To investigate temperament in infants whose mothers were exposed to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, and to determine if high hurricane exposure is associated with difficult infant temperament. A prospective cohort study of women giving birth in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, LA (n=288) in 2006–2007 was conducted. Questionnaires and interviews assessed the mother’s experiences during the hurricane, living conditions, and psychological symptoms, two months and 12 months postpartum. Infant temperament characteristics were reported by the mother using the activity, adaptability, approach, intensity, and mood scales of the Early Infant and Toddler Temperament Questionnaires, and “difficult temperament” was defined as scoring in the top quartile for three or more of the scales. Logistic regression was used to examine the association between hurricane experience, mental health, and infant temperament. Serious experiences of the hurricane did not strongly increase the risk of difficult infant temperament (association with 3 or more serious experiences of the hurricane: adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 1.50, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.63–3.58 at 2 months; 0.58, 0.15–2.28 at 12 months). Maternal mental health was associated with report of difficult infant temperament, with women more likely to report having a difficult infant temperament at one year if they had screened positive for PTSD (aOR 1.82, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.61–5.41), depression, (aOR 3.16, 95% CI 1.22–8.20) or hostility (aOR 2.17, 95% CI 0.81–5.82) at 2 months. Large associations between maternal stress due to a natural disaster and infant temperament were not seen, but maternal mental health was associated with reporting difficult temperament. Further research is needed to determine the effects of maternal exposure to disasters on child temperament, but in order to help babies born in the aftermath of disaster, the focus may need to be on the mother’s mental health.
infant temperament; natural disaster; postpartum depression; post-traumatic stress disorder
Natural disaster is often a cause of psychopathology, and women are vulnerable to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression. Depression is also common after a woman gives birth. However, no research has addressed postpartum women's mental health after natural disaster.
Interviews were conducted in 2006–2007 with women who had been pregnant during or shortly after Hurricane Katrina. 292 New Orleans and Baton Rouge women were interviewed at delivery and 2 months postpartum. Depression was assessed using the Edinburgh Depression Scale and PTSD using the Post-Traumatic Stress Checklist. Women were asked about their experience of the hurricane with questions addressing threat, illness, loss, and damage. Chi-square tests and log-binomial/Poisson models were used to calculate associations and relative risks (RR).
Black women and women with less education were more likely to have had a serious experience of the hurricane. 18% of the sample met the criteria for depression and 13% for PTSD at two months postpartum. Feeling that one's life was in danger was associated with depression and PTSD, as were injury to a family member and severe impact on property. Overall, two or more severe experiences of the storm was associated with an increased risk for both depression (relative risk (RR) 1.77, 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.08–2.89) and PTSD (RR 3.68, 95% CI 1.80–7.52).
Postpartum women who experience natural disaster severely are at increased risk for mental health problems, but overall rates of depression and PTSD do not seem to be higher than in studies of the general population.
Little is known about the effects of disaster exposure and intensity on the development of mental disorders among pregnant women. The aim of this study was to examine the effect of exposure to Hurricane Katrina on mental health in pregnant women.
Prospective cohort epidemiological study.
Tertiary hospitals in New Orleans and Baton Rouge, USA.
Women who were pregnant during Hurricane Katrina or became pregnant immediately after the hurricane.
Main outcome measures
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression.
The frequency of PTSD was higher in women with high hurricane exposure (13.8%) than women without high hurricane exposure (1.3%), with an adjusted odds ratio (aOR) of 16.8; 95 % confidence interval (CI): 2.6-106.6; after adjustment for maternal race, age, education, smoking and alcohol use, family income, parity, and other confounders. The frequency of depression was higher in women with high hurricane exposure (32.3%) than women without high hurricane exposure (12.3%), with aOR of 3.3 (1.6-7.1). Moreover, the risk of PTSD and depression increased with an increasing number of severe experiences of the hurricane.
Pregnant women who had severe hurricane experiences were at a significantly increased risk for PTSD and depression. This information should be useful for screening pregnant women who are at higher risk of developing mental disorders after disaster.
Depression; disaster; Hurricane Katrina; post-traumatic stress disorder; pregnancy
One of the tragic legacies of Hurricane Katrina was the loss of life among Louisiana (LA) nursing home (NH) residents. Katrina revealed a staggering lack of emergency preparation and understanding of how to safely evacuate frail populations. Three years later, LA braced for Hurricane Gustav, a storm heralded to rival Katrina's power. Though its magnitude of destruction ultimately paled to Katrina, the warnings and predicted path preceding Gustav yielded a process of NH evacuations similar to Katrina. The goal of this paper was to ascertain whether NH administrative directors (ADs) felt more prepared to evacuate before Gustav.
In 2006, Dosa, et. al. (JAMDA, 3/07), interviewed 20 NH ADs by qualitative telephone survey to evaluate their lessons learned from Katrina. Administrators at these 20 participating nursing homes were contacted and asked to participate in a follow-up survey to compare hurricane preparedness between 2005 and 2008. Specifically, ADs were asked if they evacuated prior to Gustav, their destination, and about logistical issues with evacuation (e.g., transportation, injuries). ADs were asked to rate their confidence with state assistance, hurricane transportation, and evacuation preparedness on a 10-point scale (10=most confident) and compare their preparedness to Katrina.
Sixteen of the 20 NHs that participated in 2006 agreed to be surveyed – 11 of whom held the same position before Katrina. Unlike Katrina, when only 45% evacuated prior to the storm, all 16 NHs evacuated before Gustav. (56% to another NH and 46% to a church, gym, college, or other facility). Overall, ADs rated their confidence in preparedness for Gustav as a mean of 8.3 (range 5 to 10) – compared with a mean of 5.4 (range 3 to 8) for Katrina, a 54% improvement. Of the 11 ADs employed pre-Katrina, 73% reported improved collaboration with the state and 55% noted improved transportation. Nevertheless, seven ADs noted significant logistical problems during evacuation (mostly transportation); four noted resident injuries (two hip fractures, one traumatic fall, and one cerebrovascular accident); and two noted resident post-traumatic stress.
NH ADs felt more prepared to evacuate their residents for Gustav, owing partly to improved communication and collaboration with state agencies; however, significant morbidity and logistical problems remain with evacuating frail NH residents before hurricanes.
Hurricane Disasters; Emergency Preparedness; Evacuation
This article provides a detailed examination of the relationship between disaster-related experiences and mental health outcomes among a sample of drug using African American Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Face-to-face structured interviews were administered to Hurricane Katrina evacuees (n = 350) residing in voucher assisted apartment complexes in Houston, Texas (2006–2007). We use Ordinary Least Squares and logistic regression models to examine both the relevance of disaster-related experiences and the interactive relationships between disaster-related experiences and post-disaster mental health outcomes including psychological distress, severe depression, somatic symptoms, and posttraumatic stress disorder. Results indicate that disaster-related experiences including negative life changes, disaster exposure, post-disaster stressors, and resource loss, have unique, inverse relationships with mental health. While resource loss has the strongest inverse relationship with mental health, disaster exposure has a negative interactive effect on psychological distress and anxiety. Although highly vulnerable populations report low levels of mental health nearly 2 years following a disaster experience, there is a convergence in mental health outcomes with high levels of disaster experiences and disaster exposure that suggests mental resiliency.
Disasters; Post-traumatic stress disorder; Depression; Mental health
Hemodialysis patients experience a high degree of psychosocial impairment.
The psychosocial status of hemodialysis patients after Hurricane Katrina was evaluated using the Hurricane Coping Self-Efficacy (HCSE) measure, the Short Form-12 Health Survey (physical component summary [PCS] and mental component summary [MCS]), and the Center for Epidemiologic Studies Short Depression Scale (CES-D). These scales were administered to 391 hemodialysis patients (86% participation rate), 7 to 14 months after Hurricane Katrina.
The mean score (standard deviation) was 36.2 (9.6) for the HCSE scale, 37.1 (10.9) and 46.7 (12.7) for the PCS and MCS, respectively, and 10.0 (6.5) on the CES-D. Symptoms of depression (CES-D scores ≥10) were present in 45.5% of patients. After age, race and gender adjustment, evacuating less than 2 days prior to Hurricane Katrina making landfall and more fear of dying were associated with less favorable scores on the HCSE, MCS and CES-D scales. Patients placed in a shelter and with a longer displacement had significantly lower MCS scores and more depressive symptoms. More depressive symptoms were observed among patients hospitalized in the month following the storm. Those who evacuated to a hotel, with more fear of dying and who were hospitalized in the month following Hurricane Katrina had lower scores on the PCS.
Impaired psychosocial status was common among dialysis patients surviving Hurricane Katrina and associated with reduced coping. These data demonstrate the need for screening and management of psychosocial issues in hemodialysis patients after disasters.
hemodialysis; natural disasters; psychosocial status
To examine disruption of ongoing treatments among pre-existing cases and failure to initiate treatments among cases with new onset disorders in the aftermath of hurricane Katrina.
A telephone survey was administered to a probability sample of 1,043 English-speaking adult Katrina survivors between January 19 and March 31, 2006. The survey assessed post-hurricane treatment of emotional problems and barriers to treatment among respondents with self-reported pre-hurricane mental disorders and those with post-hurricane onsets of mental disorders.
Among respondents who had pre-existing mental disorders and used services in the year before the hurricane, 22.9% experienced reductions or terminations of their treatments after Katrina. Among those without pre-hurricane disorders who developed new-onset ones, 18.5% received some form of treatment for emotional problems since the disaster. Reasons for failing to continue treatments among pre-existing cases largely involved structural barriers to treatment, while reasons for failing to seek treatment among new-onset cases largely involved low perceived needs for treatment. The majority (64.5%) of respondents using post-Katrina treatments received them from general medical providers and received medication but no psychotherapy. Treatment of new-onset cases was positively related to age and income, while continued treatment of pre-existing cases was positively related to being Non-Hispanic White and having health insurance.
Hurricane Katrina survivors with mental disorders experienced large unmet needs for treatment, including frequent disruptions of existing care and widespread failure to initiate treatments among those with new onset disorders. Future disaster management plans should anticipate both types of need.
Hurricane Katrina; mental illness; mental health services
We examined patterns and correlates of speed of recovery of estimated posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among people who developed PTSD in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.
A probability sample of pre-hurricane residents of areas affected by Hurricane Katrina was administered a telephone survey 7-19 months following the hurricane and again 24-27 months post-hurricane. The baseline survey assessed PTSD using a validated screening scale and assessed a number of hypothesized predictors of PTSD recovery that included socio-demographics, pre-hurricane history of psychopathology, hurricane-related stressors, social support, and social competence. Exposure to post-hurricane stressors and course of estimated PTSD were assessed in a follow-up interview.
An estimated 17.1% of respondents had a history of estimated hurricane-related PTSD at baseline and 29.2% by the follow-up survey. Of the respondents who developed estimated hurricane-related PTSD, 39.0% recovered by the time of the follow-up survey with a mean duration of 16.5 months. Predictors of slow recovery included exposure to a life-threatening situation, hurricane-related housing adversity, and high income. Other socio-demographics, history of psychopathology, social support, social competence, and post-hurricane stressors were unrelated to recovery from estimated PTSD.
The majority of adults who developed estimated PTSD after Hurricane Katrina did not recover within 18-27 months. Delayed onset was common. Findings document the importance of initial trauma exposure severity in predicting course of illness and suggest that pre- and post-trauma factors typically associated with course of estimated PTSD did not influence recovery following Hurricane Katrina.
Disasters; Post-traumatic stress disorders; PTSD; Stressful Events; Time Factors
This study examined trajectories of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms in Hurricane Katrina affected youth.
A total of 426 youth (51% female; 8–16 years old; mean age=11 years; 75% minorities) completed assessments at 4 time points post-disaster. Measures included Hurricane impact variables (initial loss/disruption and perceived life threat); history of family and community violence exposure, parent and peer social support, and post-disaster posttraumatic stress symptoms.
Latent class growth analysis demonstrated that there were three distinct trajectories of posttraumatic stress disorder symptoms identified for this sample of youth (resilient, recovering, and chronic, respectively). Youth trajectories were associated with Hurricane-related initial loss/disruption, community violence, and peer social support.
The results suggest that youth exposed to Hurricane Katrina have variable posttraumatic stress disorder symptom trajectories. Significant risk and protective factors were identified. Specifically, youth Hurricane and community violence exposure increased risk for a more problematic posttraumatic stress disorder symptom trajectory, while peer social support served as a protective factor for these youth. Identification of these factors suggests directions for future research as well as potential target areas for screening and intervention with disaster exposed youth.
The convenience sample limits the external validity of the findings to other disaster exposed youth, and the self-report data is susceptible to response bias.
Posttraumatic stress symptoms; Children; Disasters; Growth mixture modeling
The purpose of this study was to investigate trajectories of psychological distress among low-income, primarily unmarried and African American women who survived Hurricane Katrina (N = 386). Data were collected in the year prior to the hurricane as well as approximately 1 and 3 years thereafter. Using Latent Class Growth Analysis (LCGA), we detected 6 distinct trajectory groups. Over half of the participants fit into a trajectory consistent with resilience; that is, they maintained low levels of psychological distress over the course of the study, but experienced an elevation in symptoms at the first predisaster time point followed by a return to predisaster levels. The other trajectories reflected a range of psychological responses to disasters and indicated that predisaster functioning had a major influence on postdisaster psychological outcomes. Degree of exposure to hurricane-related stressors, experiences of human and pet bereavement, perceived social support, and socioeconomic status were significant predictors of trajectory group membership. Implications for research and policy are discussed.
women; hurricane survivors; disaster exposure; postdisaster psychological distress; human bereavement; pet loss; displacement; delayed distress; Hurricane Katrina
This study sought to establish the prevalence and correlates of intimate partner violence (IPV) victimization in the six months before and after Hurricane Katrina. Participants were 445 married or cohabiting persons who were living in the 23 southernmost counties of Mississippi at the time of Hurricane Katrina. Data for this study were collected as part of a larger, population-based, representative study. The percentage of women reporting psychological victimization increased from 33.6% prior to Hurricane Katrina to 45.2 % following Hurricane Katrina (p < 0.001). The percentage of men reporting psychological victimization increased from 36.7% to 43.1% (p = 0.01). Reports of physical victimization increased from 4.2% to 8.3% for women (p=.01), but were unchanged for men. Significant predictors of post-Katrina victimization included pre-Katrina victimization, age, educational attainment, marital status and hurricane-related stressors. Reports of IPV were associated with greater risk of post-Katrina depression and posttraumatic stress disorder. Data from the first population-based study to document IPV following a large scale natural disaster suggest that IPV may be an important, but often overlooked public health concern following disasters.
This prospective study examined the pathways by which religious involvement affected the post-disaster psychological functioning of women who survived Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The participants were 386 low-income, predominantly Black, single mothers. The women were enrolled in the study before the hurricane, providing a rare opportunity to document changes in mental health from before to after the storm, and to assess the protective role of religious involvement over time. Results of structural equation modeling indicated that, controlling for level of exposure to the hurricanes, pre-disaster physical health, age, and number of children, pre-disaster religiousness predicted higher levels of post-disaster (1) social resources and (2) optimism and sense of purpose. The latter, but not the former, was associated with better post-disaster psychological outcome. Mediation analysis confirmed the mediating role of optimism and sense of purpose.
Religiousness; Hurricane Katrina; Psychosocial resources
The purpose of this study was to document changes in mental and physical health among 392 low-income parents exposed to Hurricane Katrina and to explore how hurricane-related stressors and loss relate to post-Katrina well being. The prevalence of probable serious mental illness doubled, and nearly half of the respondents exhibited probable PTSD. Higher levels of hurricane-related loss and stressors were generally associated with worse health outcomes, controlling for baseline socio-demographic and health measures. Higher baseline resources predicted fewer hurricane-associated stressors, but the consequences of stressors and loss were similar regardless of baseline resources. Adverse health consequences of Hurricane Katrina persisted for a year or more, and were most severe for those experiencing the most stressors and loss. Long-term health and mental health services are needed for low-income disaster survivors, especially those who experience disaster-related stressors and loss.
The purpose of this study was to assess quality of life among hypertensive patients in the year following Hurricane Katrina.
Hypertensive patients (n = 211) in a multispecialty group practice in New Orleans completed validated surveys during the year after Hurricane Katrina. We assessed patients' demographics, quality of life (Medical Outcomes Study 36), hurricane coping self-efficacy, property damage, stress, and changes in distance from and visits with family and friends.
The mean age of participants was 63.5 years, 45.0% were men, 70.6% were white, 89.5% had graduated from high school, and 68.3% were married. Mean quality of life scores (standard deviation) were physical functioning 64.6 (30.0), role physical 60.0 (42.8), bodily pain 59.9 (24.3), general health 60.4 (20.5), vitality 53.6 (26.5), social functioning 74.5 (28.1), role emotional 67.8 (41.1), and mental 72.3 (22.0). After adjustment for age, gender, and race, lower coping self-efficacy, more damage to their residence, higher levels of stress after the storm, increased distance from family and friends, and decreased visits with family and friends were associated with lower quality of life. Personal and financial losses were identified as the most common cause of postdisaster stress, reported by 29.6% of participants.
Storm-related factors were associated with lower quality of life in adult patients with hypertension after Hurricane Katrina. Providers managing hypertensive patients in disaster-prone areas may want to consider these factors in identifying patients at risk for lower quality of life following catastrophes.
Disasters; Hurricane Katrina; hypertension; quality of life; Short Form 36
To estimate the prevalence of serious emotional disturbance (SED) among children and adolescents exposed to Hurricane Katrina along with the associations of SED with hurricane-related stressors, socio-demographics, and family factors 18–27 months following the hurricane.
A probability sample of pre-hurricane residents of areas affected by Hurricane Katrina was administered a telephone survey. Respondents provided information on up to two of their children (n=797) aged 4–17. The survey assessed hurricane-related stressors and lifetime history of psychopathology in respondents, screened for 12-month SED in respondents’ children using the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ), and determined whether children’s emotional and behavioral problems were attributable to Hurricane Katrina.
The estimated prevalence of SED was 14.9%, and 9.3% of youth were estimated to have SED that is directly attributable to Hurricane Katrina. Stress exposure was associated strongly with SED, and 20.3% of youth with high stress exposure had hurricane-attributable SED. Death of a loved one had the strongest association with SED among pre-hurricane residents of New Orleans, whereas exposure to physical adversity had the strongest association in the remainder of the sample. Among children with stress exposure, parental psychopathology and poverty were associated with SED.
The prevalence of SED among youth exposed to Hurricane Katrina remains high 18–27 months after the storm, suggesting a substantial need for mental health treatment resources in the hurricane-affected areas. Youth who were exposed to hurricane-related stressors, have a family history of psychopathology, and have lower family incomes are at greatest risk for long-term psychiatric impairment.
Hurricane Katrina; SED; natural disaster; child mental health
A representative sample of 815 pre-hurricane residents of the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina was interviewed 5-8 months after the hurricane and again one year later as the Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group (CAG). The follow-up survey was carried out to study patterns-correlates of recovery from hurricane-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), broader anxiety-mood disorders, and suicidality. The TSQ screening scale of PTSD and the K6 screening scale of anxiety-mood disorders were used to generate DSM-IV prevalence estimates. Contrary to results in other disaster studies, where post-disaster mental disorder typically decreases with time, prevalence increased significantly in the CAG for PTSD (20.9% vs. 14.9% at baseline), serious mental illness (SMI; 14.0% vs. 10.9%), suicidal ideation (6.4% vs. 2.8%), and suicide plans (5% vs. 1.0%). The increases in PTSD-SMI were confined to respondents not from the New Orleans Metropolitan Area, while the increases in suicidal ideation-plans occurred both in the New Orleans sub-sample and in the remainder of the sample. Unresolved hurricane-related stresses accounted for large proportions of the inter-temporal increases in SMI (89.2%), PTSD (31.9%), and suicidality (61.6%). Differential hurricane-related stress did not explain the significantly higher increases among respondents from areas other than New Orleans, though, as this stress was both higher initially and decreased less among respondents from the New Orleans Metropolitan Area than from other areas affected by the hurricane. Outcomes were only weakly related to socio-demographic variables, meaning that high prevalence of hurricane-related mental illness remains widely distributed in the population nearly two years after the hurricane.
Anxiety disorder; epidemiology; mood disorder; natural disaster; post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
Although losses are important consequences of disasters, few epidemiological studies of disasters have assessed complicated grief (CG) and none assessed CG associated with losses other than death of loved one.
Data come from the baseline survey of the Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group (CAG), a representative sample of 3,088 residents of the areas directly affected by Hurricane Katrina. A brief screen for CG was included containing four items consistent with the proposed DSM 5 criteria for a diagnosis of bereavement-related adjustment disorder.
58.5% of respondents reported a significant hurricane-related loss: Most-severe losses were 29.0% tangible, 9.5% interpersonal, 8.1% intangible, 4.2% work-financial, and 3.7% death of loved one. 26.1% of respondents with significant loss had possible CG and 7.0% moderate-severe CG. Death of loved one was associated with the highest conditional probability of moderate-severe CG (18.5%, compared to 1.1–10.5% conditional probabilities for other losses) but accounted for only 16.5% of moderate-severe CG due to its comparatively low prevalence. Most moderate-severe CG was due to tangible (52.9%) or interpersonal (24.0%) losses. Significant predictors of CG were mostly unique to either bereavement (racial-ethnic minority status, social support) or other losses (pre-hurricane history of psychopathology, social competence.).
Non-bereavement losses accounted for the vast majority of hurricane-related possible CG despite risk of CG being much higher in response to bereavement than to other losses. This result argues for expansion of research on CG beyond bereavement and alerts clinicians to the need to address post-disaster grief associated with a wide range of losses.
bereavement; loss; grief; disaster mental health; complicated grief; loss; suicide
To examine patterns and predictors of trends in DSM-IV serious emotional disturbance (SED) among youths exposed to Hurricane Katrina.
A probability sample of adult pre-hurricane residents of the areas affected by Katrina completed baseline and follow-up telephone surveys 18-27 months post-hurricane and 12-18 months later. Baseline adult respondents residing with children (ages 4-17) provided informant reports about the emotional functioning of these youths (n = 576) with the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire (SDQ). The surveys also assessed hurricane-related stressors and ongoing stressors experienced by respondent families.
SED prevalence decreased significantly across survey waves from 15.1% to 11.5%, although even the latter prevalence was considerably higher than the pre-hurricane prevalence of 4.2% estimated in the US National Health Interview Survey. Trends in hurricane-related SED were predicted by both stressors experienced in the hurricane and ongoing stressors, with SED prevalence decreasing significantly only among youths with moderate stress exposure (16.8% vs. 6.5%). SED prevalence did not change significantly between waves among youths with either high stress exposure (30.0% vs. 41.9%) or low stress exposure (3.5% vs. 3.4%). Pre-hurricane functioning did not predict SED persistence among youths with high stress exposure, but did predict SED persistence among youth with low-moderate stress exposure.
The prevalence of SED among youths exposed to Hurricane Katrina remains significantly elevated several years after the storm despite meaningful decrease since baseline. Youths with high stress exposure have the highest risk of long-term hurricane-related SED and consequently represent an important target for mental health intervention.
Hurricane Katrina; SED; natural disaster; child mental health; stress
There is considerable variation in psychological reactions to natural disasters, with responses ranging from relatively mild and transitory symptoms to severe and persistent posttraumatic stress (PTS). Some survivors also report post-traumatic growth (PTG), or positive psychological changes due to the experience and processing of the disaster and its aftermath. Gene-environment interaction (GxE) studies could offer new insight into the factors underlying variability in post-disaster psychological responses. However, few studies have explored GxE in a disaster context.
We examined whether ten common variants in seven genes (BDNF, CACNA1C, CRHR1, FKBP5, OXTR, RGS2, SLC6A4) modified associations between Hurricane Katrina exposure and PTS and PTG. Data were from a prospective study of 205 low-income non-Hispanic Black parents residing in New Orleans prior to and following Hurricane Katrina.
We found a significant association (after correction) between RGS2 (rs4606; p=0.0044) and PTG, which was mainly driven by a cross-over GxE (p=0.006), rather than a main genetic effect (p=0.071). The G (minor allele) was associated with lower PTG scores for low levels of Hurricane exposure and higher PTG scores for moderate and high levels of exposure. We also found a nominally significant association between variation in FKBP5 (rs1306780, p=0.0113) and PTG, though this result did not survive correction for multiple testing.
Although the inclusion of low-income non-Hispanic Black parents allowed us to examine GxE among a highly vulnerable group, our findings may not generalize to other populations or groups experiencing other natural disasters. Moreover, not all participants invited to participate in the genetic study provided saliva.
To our knowledge, this is the first study to identify GxE in the context of post-traumatic growth. Future studies are needed to clarify the role of GxE in PTS and PTG and post-disaster psychological responses, especially among vulnerable populations.
Genes; Adversity; Hurricane; Post-traumatic stress; Post-traumatic growth; resilience
Uncertainty exists about the prevalence, severity, and correlates of mental disorders among people exposed to Hurricane Katrina.
To estimate the prevalence and associations between DSM-IV anxiety-mood disorders and hurricane-related stressors separately among prehurricane residents of the New Orleans metropolitan area and the remainder of the areas in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi affected by Katrina.
Setting and Participants:
A probability sample of 1043 English-speaking prehurricane residents of the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina was administered via telephone survey between January 19 and March 31, 2006. The survey assessed hurricane-related stressors and screened for 30-day DSM-IV anxiety-mood disorders.
Main Outcome Measures:
The K6 screening scale of anxiety-mood disorders and the Trauma Screening Questionnaire scale for posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), both calibrated against blinded structured clinical reappraisal interviews to approximate the 30-day prevalence of DSM-IV disorders.
Prehurricane residents of the New Orleans metropolitan area were estimated to have a 49.1% 30-day prevalence of any DSM-IV anxiety-mood disorder (30.3% estimated prevalence of PTSD) compared with 26.4% (12.5% PTSD) in the remainder of the sample. The vast majority of respondents reported exposure to hurricane-related stressors. Extent of stressor exposure was more strongly related to the outcomes in the New Orleans metropolitan area subsample than the remainder of the sample. The stressors most strongly related to these outcomes were physical illness/injury and physical adversity in the New Orleans metropolitan area subsample and property loss in the remainder of the sample. Sociodemographic correlates were not explained either by differential exposure or reactivity to hurricane-related stressors.
The high prevalence of DSM-IV anxiety-mood disorders, the strong associations of hurricane-related stressors with these outcomes, and the independence of sociodemographics from stressors argue that the practical problems associated with ongoing stressors are widespread and must be addressed to reduce the prevalence of mental disorders in this population.
To date there is no consensus on the operationalization of exposure severity in the study of the impact of natural disasters. This is problematic because incomplete and inconsistent measurement of exposure limits the internal and external validity of disaster studies. The current paper examined the predictive validity of severity measures in two interrelated studies of Hurricane Katrina survivors. First, in a meta-analysis of eight studies that measured both exposure severity and posttraumatic stress, the effect size was estimated to be r = .266. The moderating effects of sample and study characteristics were examined and we found that minority status and number of stressors assessed were significant moderators. Second, in an integrative data analysis of five independent samples of Hurricane Katrina survivors, the impact of specific disaster-related stressors on mental health was compared. Threat to physical integrity of self and others were found to have the strongest association with posttraumatic stress (PTS) and general psychological distress (GPD). The lack of basic necessities, such as food, water, and medical care, and loss of pet were also found to be strongly associated with both PTS and GPD. The results from the two studies are integrated and their implication for disaster research and relief are discussed.