The contribution of pre- and postdisaster social support to short- and long-term mental health after Hurricanes Katrina: A longitudinal study of low-income survivors

Christian S. Chan, Sarah R. Lowe, Elyssa Weber, Jean E. Rhodes

16 Scopus citations


A previous study of Hurricane Katrina survivors found that higher levels of predisaster social support were associated with lower psychological distress one year after the storm, and that this pathway was mediated by lower exposure to hurricane-related stressors. As a follow-up, we examined the impact of pre- and postdisaster social support on longer-term of mental health-both psychological distress and posttraumatic stress. In this three-wave longitudinal study, 492 residents in the region affected by Hurricane Katrina reported levels of perceived social support and symptoms of psychological distress prior to the storm (Wave 1). Subsequently, one year after Hurricane Katrina (Wave 2), they reported levels of exposure, perceived social support, and symptoms of psychological distress and posttraumatic stress. The latter three variables were assessed again four years after the hurricane (Wave 3). Results of mediation analysis indicated that levels of exposure to hurricane-related stressors mediated the relationship between Wave 1 perceived social support and Wave 3 psychological distress as well as postdisaster posttraumatic stress. Results of regression analyses indicated that, controlling for Wave 1 psychological distress and disaster exposure, Wave 2 perceived social support was associated with Wave 2 and Wave 3 psychological distress but not posttraumatic stress. Our results confirmed the social causation processes of social support and suggest that posttraumatic stress might not stem directly from the lack of social support. Rather, preexisting deficits in social resources might indirectly affect longer-term posttraumatic stress and general psychological distress by increasing risk for disaster-related stressors.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)38-43
Number of pages6
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Publication statusPublished - 1 Aug 2015



  • Hurricane Katrina
  • Posttraumatic stress
  • Psychological distress
  • Social support

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