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Individuals exposed to natural disasters are at risk for negative physical and psychological outcomes. Older adults may be particularly vulnerable; however, social support can act as a resource to help individuals respond to severe stressors. This study explored the challenges older people faced before, during, and after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 and the people they turned to for support.
Semi-structured interviews were conducted with 20 older adults in New Jersey drawn from the ORANJ BOWL (Ongoing Research on Aging in New Jersey – Bettering Opportunities for Wellness in Life) research panel, who experienced high levels of primary home damage during Hurricane Sandy. Content analysis of interview transcripts classified older adults’ perceptions on how they “made it” through—the challenges they faced and the support they received.
The findings suggested that older adults experienced emotional, instrumental, social, and financial challenges before, during, and after the storm. However, by relying on family and friends, as well as neighbors and community networks, older people were able to respond to stressors.
Our findings carry implications for ensuring that older adults are connected to social networks before, during, and after disasters. The role of neighbors is particularly important when disasters strike. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2017;11:39–47)
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)
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