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A unique study which began before Katrina hit New Orleans captured information about the mental health of 532 low income mothers, most African American and hose average age was 26. This study gave researchers a chance to see how the hurricane affected the people in the area for the years after its destruction.
The study helped rate the women on two signs of poor mental health: psychological distress and post-traumatic stress symptoms (PTSS). A questionnaire typically used for mood and anxiety disorders was used. It asked about feelings of sadness, hopelessness and nervousness over a period of time. The researchers measured PTSS using a similar test and asked women how often they thought of the hurricane and if they had thoughts they could not suppress.
Even after four year, a third of the participants had PTSS and a little less had psychological distress. Levels had decreased but not to pre-storm levels. Key stressors were also on the survey. The women were asked about home damage, traumatic experiences the week of the hurricane or death of a friend or relative. There was a relationship between those who experience home damage and those with the risk of chronic, long-term PTSS alone or in combination with psychological distress.
“I think Katrina might be different from a lot of natural disasters in the sense that it completely upended most people’s lives,” Paxson said. “About two-thirds of the sample is back in the New Orleans area, but almost nobody lives in their old home. So they’re living in new communities. They’ve been disrupted from their friends and their families. The whole fabric of their lives has really been changed.”
Source: Medical NewsToday, Social Science and Medicine
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