Drawing on pre-disaster, peri-disaster, and post-disaster data, this study examined factors associated with the development of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms in older adults exposed to Hurricane Sandy.
We used a sample of older participants matched by gender, exposure, and geographic region (N=88, mean age=59.83 years) in which one group reported clinically significant levels of PTSD symptoms and the other did not. We conducted t-tests, chi-square tests, and exact logistic regressions to examine differences in pre-disaster characteristics and peri-disaster experiences.
Older adults who experienced PTSD symptoms reported lower levels of income, positive affect, subjective health, and social support and were less likely to be working 4 to 6 years before Hurricane Sandy than were people not experiencing PTSD symptoms. Those developing PTSD symptoms reported more depressive symptoms, negative affect, functional disability, chronic health conditions, and pain before Sandy and greater distress and feelings of danger during Hurricane Sandy. Exact logistic regression revealed independent effects of preexisting chronic health conditions and feelings of distress during Hurricane Sandy in predicting PTSD group status.
Our findings indicated that because vulnerable adults can be identified before disaster strikes, the opportunity to mitigate disaster-related PTSD exists through identification and resource programs that target population subgroups. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2016;10:362–370)