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Displacement during Hurricane Sandy: The impact on mental health

Rebecca M. Schwartz, PhD, Rehana Rasul, MA, Samantha M. Kerath, MS, Alexis R. Watson, BS, Wil Lieberman-Cribbin, MPH, Bian Liu, PhD, Emanuela Taioli, MD, PhD


Objective: To assess the effect of displacement due to Hurricane Sandy on mental health outcomes among residents of the greater New York City (NYC) area.

Design: Prospective, cross sectional.

Setting: NYC area residents, including Queens, Staten Island, and Long Island.

Participants: In a 4.25 year period (June 2012 to September 2016), a convenience sample of 1,615 adult residents from the greater NYC area completed validated measures of hurricane exposure (including displacement), perceived stress, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms as well as indicators of alcohol, illicit substance, and tobacco use.

Main Outcome Measures: Perceived stress, depression, anxiety and PTSD symptoms and alcohol, illicit substance, and tobacco use.

Results: Multivariable analyses indicated that displaced participants were more likely to have PTSD (adjusted Odds Ratio (AOR): 2.21, 95%CI: 1.73-2.82), depression (AOR: 1.37, 95%CI: 1.05-1.79) and anxiety symptoms (AOR: 1.30, 95%CI: 1.01-1.67) and had a 1.16 unit increase in perceived stress score (SE = 0.38) compared to nondisplaced participants. Staying with friends/family vs. at a shelter was significantly associated with a 48 percent decreased odds of having PTSD symptoms (AOR: 0.52, 95%CI: 0.31-0.88) and of being a current tobacco user (AOR: 0.52, 95%CI: 0.30-0.92).

Conclusions: Displacement is associated with negative mental health outcomes, particularly displacement to shelters. Disaster preparedness efforts should involve increasing mental health resources to those who are displaced and providing support services within the shelter setting.


displacement, hurricane, mental health, PTSD, temporary housing

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