Natural disasters are associated with catastrophic losses. Disaster survivors return to devastated communities and rebuild homes or relocate permanently, although the long-term psychological consequences are not well understood. In an article published in Aging and Mental Health, the authors examined predictors of psychological outcomes in 219 residents of disaster-affected communities in south Louisiana. Current coastal residents with severe property damage from the 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and exposure to the 2010 British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oil spill were compared and contrasted with former coastal residents and an indirectly affected control group. Participants completed measures of storm exposure and stressors, religiosity, perceived social support, and mental health. Results showed that non-organizational religiosity was a significant predictor of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in bivariate and multivariate logistic regressions. Follow-up analyses revealed that more frequent participation in non-organizational religious behaviors was associated with a heightened risk of PTSD. Low income and being a coastal fisher were significant predictors of depression symptoms in bivariate and multivariate models. Perceived social support had a protective effect for all mental health outcomes, which also held for symptoms of depression and GAD in multivariate models. The authors conclude that people who experienced recent and severe trauma related to natural and technological disasters are at risk for adverse psychological outcomes in the years after these events. Individuals with low income, low social support, and high levels of non-organizational religiosity are also at greater risk. Implications of these data for current views on the post-disaster psychological reactions and the development of age-sensitive interventions to promote long-term recovery are discussed.
Since 2001, Palestinian militants have launched thousands of mortar and missile attacks directed against the southern part of Israel, particularly the Gaza area. Most of the attacks have been directed against urban centres, including the town of Sderot, and the smaller agricultural communities such as kibbutzim and moshavim. While these communities are intended to be self-supporting with a high level standard of living for residents, the damage from the attacks, as well as political uncertainty, has overshadowed life in Gaza.
As of 2014, there have been fifty fatalities and more than 1900 people injured from the rocket attacks. Still, the greatest damage from comes from the widespread disruption of life in Gaza as well as the uncertainty surrounding future attacks. Medical studies of people living in Sderot and neighbouring centres have found that almost half of all young people experience posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as well as elevated rates of depression and medical conditions linked to stress.
In describing the emotional problems linked to living in areas affected by chronic violence, including Gaza, psychologists have referred to this as continuous traumatic stress (CTS). Though many people experiencing the repeated traumas linked to war will have enough resilience to avoid developing full-blown trauma symptoms, coping with CTS often depends on how or where the trauma takes place. This includes war zones where the threat of physical attack remains very real and a state of "permanent emergency" exists. Soldiers, U.N. peacekeepers, relief agency workers, people in refugee camps, and even civilians living in these war zones often experience CTS on a daily basis with no relief in sight.
To read more, check out my new Huffington Post blog post.