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Katrina survivors still suffering ten years later, Part I

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Survivors of Hurricane Katrina continue to suffer. According to a new study of low-income mothers in the New Orleans area, their mental health continues to be compromised as a result of the devastating storm in 2005.

This study had a unique approach. The researchers were able to collect data on the participants before Katina and then five years after. They identified persistence of poor mental health and gained insights into how hurricane-related stressors affected mental health.

“On average, people were not back to baseline mental health and they were showing pretty high levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms. There aren’t many studies that trace people for this long, but the very few that there are suggest faster recovery than what we’re finding here,” said the study’s lead author, Christina Paxson of Princeton University. “I think the lesson for treatment of mental health conditions is don’t think it’s over after a year. It ain’t.”

The research may be used to guide policymakers in addressing areas that had significant impact on the women in the study. This would include home damage and rebuilding.

This study began in 2003 as a study of low income adults enrolled in community college around the country including New Orleans. After the hurricane hit, researchers decided to take the opportunity to use the data to study the impact on survivors of Katrina. “I realized right away that the kinds of information we had on mental and physical health were very rare in disaster studies,” said Mary Waters of Harvard University. “Researchers never know if people are suffering because of the disaster or if they had underlying conditions that would have led to depression or poor health even before the disaster hit.”

Source: MedicalNewsToday, Social Science and Medicine

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