Katrina survey shows many suffered extreme adversity and show signs of post-traumatic stress

August 28, 2006

Boston, MA--According to the most comprehensive survey of people affected by Hurricane Katrina, the vast majority of pre-hurricane residents of the affected areas in Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi experienced a significant loss in one or more of the areas of finances, income, and housing. More than one-third experienced extreme physical adversity and nearly one-fourth experienced extreme psychological adversity. At the same time, evidence was found of an enormous amount of strength and personal growth in the sample, with the vast majority of survey respondents saying that their experiences with the hurricane helped them develop a deeper sense of meaning or purpose in life.

These and other survey results come from baseline interviews with the Hurricane Community Advisory Group, a statistically representative sample of hurricane survivors assembled to provide information in a series of ongoing tracking surveys about the pace of recovery efforts and the mental health effects of these efforts on hurricane survivors. The study is led by researchers from Harvard Medical School and is funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services for Planning and Evaluation.

"It is important for mental health policy planners to have accurate information about the size of the problem they are trying to address among survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Our tracking surveys are designed to provide that information," says Ronald Kessler, Professor of Health Care Policy at Harvard Medical School and director of the study.

Hurricane Katrina was the deadliest United States hurricane in seven decades, and the most expensive natural disaster in U.S. history. Over 500,000 people were evacuated, and nearly 90,000 square miles were declared a disaster area (roughly equal to the land mass of the United Kingdom).

The Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group initiative was launched to provide an ongoing tracking survey of the mental health of those affected. The data will help support public health decisions.

The survey data presented in the report released today come from a baseline survey. A series of follow-up surveys are planned for the future. A total of 1,043 people agreed to join the survey panel and to participate in repeated surveys over several years. The respondents were all pre-hurricane residents of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi, with an over-sampling from New Orleans.

This first report covers the following areas from the baseline survey: recollections of evacuation preparations, post-evacuation stressful experiences, current practical problems and proposed solutions, rating the helper agencies and organizations, residential mobility plans, post-traumatic stress reactions, post-traumatic personal growth, and long-term perspective. The baseline survey was conducted between January 19 and March 31, 2006.

Overview of Baseline Survey Results: Hurricane Katrina Community Advisory Group

Evacuation PreparationsPost-evacuation stressful experiences

Current practical problems and proposed solutions

Rating the helper agencies and organizations

Residential mobility plans

Post-traumatic stress reactions

Post-traumatic personal growth

The long-term perspective

-end-
A complete copy of the report can be found at www.hurricanekatrina.med.harvard.edu/baseline.php.

HARVARD MEDICAL SCHOOL

http://hms.harvard.edu/

Harvard Medical School has more than 7,000 full-time faculty working in 10 academic departments housed on the School's Boston quadrangle or in one of 48 academic departments at 18 Harvard teaching hospitals and research institutes. Those Harvard hospitals and research institutions include Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Cambridge Health Alliance, The CBR Institute for Biomedical Research, Children's Hospital Boston, Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Forsyth Institute, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, Joslin Diabetes Center, Judge Baker Children's Center, Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary, Massachusetts General Hospital, Massachusetts Mental Health Center, McLean Hospital, Mount Auburn Hospital, Schepens Eye Research Institute, Spaulding Rehabilitation Hospital, and the VA Boston Healthcare System.

Harvard Medical School

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