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Psychological and Physical Impacts of Extreme Events on Older Adults: Implications for Communications

  • Erin McClelland (a1), Richard Amlôt (a2), M. Brooke Rogers (a1), G. James Rubin (a3), John Tesh (a1) and Julia M. Pearce (a1)...


In recent years, a series of large-scale, high-profile natural disasters and terrorist attacks have demonstrated the need for thorough and effective disaster preparedness. While these extreme events affect communities and societies as a whole, they also carry specific risks for particular population groups. Crises such as Hurricane Katrina and the 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster in Japan have illustrated the risk of significant and disproportionate morbidity and mortality among older adults during disasters. Age does not necessarily equate to vulnerability, but many physical and psychological consequences of the aging process can increase the risk of adverse outcomes. As the older population grows, so too does the need to ensure that adequate, practical, and appropriate measures exist to offset the specific risks from extreme events associated with this subpopulation. Effective risk and crisis communication plays a key role in mitigating the extent to which older adults are differentially affected during extreme events. By identifying the specific issues affecting older adults, this review highlights important areas for action for practitioners and policy-makers, particularly in the realm of crisis communication. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2017;11:127–134)

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Corresponding author

Correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. Julia Pearce, Department of War Studies, Strand Campus, London, United Kingdom WC2R 2LS (e-mail:


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