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The aim of this study was to compare the effect of Hurricane Maria on internalizing and posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD) among Puerto Ricans who moved to Florida after the storm versus those who stayed on the island.
In March through April 2018 (6 months after Hurricane Maria), an online survey was used to assess the effects of the storm on mental health. A sample of 213 displaced Puerto Ricans living in urban and rural/suburban areas in Florida, as well as urban and rural areas of Puerto Rico, participated in the study.
Rates of PTSD were high in both sites (Florida, 65.7%; Puerto Rico, 43.6%); however, participants in Florida were far more likely than those in Puerto Rico to meet diagnostic criteria for PTSD (OR, 2.94; 95% CI, 1.67-5.26). Among participants in both Florida and Puerto Rico, those living in urban areas were more likely than those in rural/suburban areas to meet criteria for PTSD and generalized anxiety disorder.
Results suggest that post-Hurricane Maria adjustment and adaptation may have been more psychologically taxing for Puerto Ricans who moved to Florida than it was for those who remained on the island, and more difficult for those in urban areas than it was for those in suburban or rural areas. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2019;13:24–27)