To determine whether self-reports of disaster-related psychological distress predict older adults’ health care utilization during the year after Hurricane Sandy, which hit New Jersey on October 29, 2012.
Respondents were from the ORANJ BOWL Study, a random-digit dialed sample from New Jersey recruited from 2006 to 2008. Medicare hospital, emergency department (ED) and outpatient claims data from 2012 and 2013 were matched to 1607 people age 65 and older in 2012 who responded to follow-up surveys conducted from July 2013 to July 2015 to determine their hurricane-related experiences.
In total, 7% (107) of respondents reported they experienced a lot versus 93% (1493) respondents reported they experienced little or no fear and distress from Hurricane Sandy. Those who experienced a lot versus little or no fear and distress had higher probability of all-cause hospital admissions and more ED visits through 3 months (hazard ratio [HR]: 2.19, 95% CI: 1.03-4.63; incidence ratio [IR]: 2.57, 95% CI: 1.21-5.35), and ED and outpatient visits (IR: 2.20, 95% CI: 1.44-3.37; IR: 1.37, 95% CI: 1.02-1.87) through the year after the hurricane.
A self-reported assessment of disaster-related psychological distress is a strong predictor of older adults’ health care needs the year after the disaster. The results indicate that disaster preparedness should extend beyond acute health care needs to address longer-term health consequences of disasters. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2018;12:578–581)
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