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).