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Exposure to hurricane-related stressors and mental illness after Hurricane Katrina

Archived Abstract of Former PSC Researcher

Galea, Sandro, C.R. Brewin, M. Gruber, R.T. Jones, D.W. King, L.A. King, R.J. McNally, R.J. Ursano, M. Petukhova, and R.C. Kessler. 2007. "Exposure to hurricane-related stressors and mental illness after Hurricane Katrina." Archives of General Psychiatry, 64(12): 1427-1434.

Uncertainty exists about the prevalence, severity, and correlates of mental disorders among people exposed to Hurricane Katrina. OBJECTIVE: 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. DESIGN: Community survey. 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. RESULTS: 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. CONCLUSIONS: 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.

PMCID: PMC2174368. (Pub Med Central)

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