Health problems among low-income parents in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina

Sarah R. Lowe, Margaret Willis, Jean E. Rhodes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Scopus citations

Abstract

Although the mental health consequences of disasters have been well documented, relatively less is known about their effects on survivors' physical health. Disaster studies have also generally lacked predisaster data, limiting researchers' ability to determine whether postdisaster physical health problems were influenced by disaster exposure, or whether they would have emerged even if the disaster had not occurred. The current study aimed to fill this gap. Method: Participants were low-income, primarily non-Hispanic Black mothers (N = 334) who survived Hurricane Katrina and completed 4 survey assessments, 2 predisaster and 2 postdisaster. In each assessment, participants reported on whether they had experienced 3 common health problems (frequent headaches or migraines, back problems, and digestive problems) and completed 2 mental health measure (the K6 scale, the Perceived Stress Scale). Results: The descriptive results suggested that the hurricane led to at least short-term increases in the 3 health outcomes. Fixed effects modeling was conducted to explore how changes in various predictor variables related to changes in each health condition over the study. Bereavement and increases in psychological distress were significant predictors of increases in health problems. Conclusions: Based on these results, further research that explores the processes through which disasters lead to both physical and mental health problems, postdisaster screenings for common health conditions and psychological distress, and interventions that boost survivors' stress management skills are suggested.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)774-782
Number of pages9
JournalHealth Psychology
Volume33
Issue number8
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2014

Keywords

  • Bereavement
  • Health problems
  • Hurricane katrina
  • Natural disasters
  • Psychological distress

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