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Mental health outcomes among vulnerable residents after Hurricane Sandy: Implications for disaster research and planning

Joseph A. Boscarino, PhD, MPH, Stuart N. Hoffman, DO, Richard E. Adams, PhD, Charles R. Figley, PhD, Ramon Solhkhah, MD

Abstract


Objective: To evaluate mental health outcomes among New Jersey shore residents with health impairments and disabilities after Hurricane Sandy.

Design and setting: Six months following Hurricane Sandy, a cross-sectional survey of 200 adults residing in beach communities directly exposed to the storm located in Monmouth County, NJ, was conducted.

Main outcome measures: Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, mental health service use, and medication use.

Results: The average age of residents surveyed was 59 years (SD = 13.7) and 52.5 percent (95% CI = 45.5-59.4) reported recent hospitalizations, physical limitations, fair to poor health status, multiple chronic health conditions, or physical disabilities. A total of 14.5 percent (95% CI = 10.2-20.1) of residents screened positive for PTSD and 6.0 percent (95% CI = 3.1-10.2) met criteria for depression 6 months after Sandy. In addition, 20.5 percent (95% CI = 15.4-26.7) sought some type of professional counseling after Sandy and 30.5 percent (95% CI = 24.5-37.3) experienced PTSD symptoms, depression, sought professional mental health support, or used psychotropic medications. In multivariate analyses, the best predictors of mental health and service use were having sleep problems, suicidal thoughts, moderate or severe pain, and having high exposure hurricane-related events. Analyses also suggested that noncollege graduates were more likely to receive mental health services (OR = 3.10, p = 0.009),

while women were less likely to have depression (OR = 0.12, p = 0.038).

Conclusion: Having physical impairments and health conditions were not directly related to adverse mental health outcomes following Sandy, but having sleep problems, pain, or suicidal thoughts were. Further research is needed to assess the health status of community residents with serious health impairments over time following disasters.

Keywords


mental health services, post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, treatment, disasters, hurricanes, vulnerability

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References


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.5055/ajdm.2014.0147

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