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Research on the impact of natural disasters on the mental health of older adults finds both vulnerabilities and resilience. We report on the rates of clinically significant depression among older adults (aged ≥60 years) living in areas affected by Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the factors associated with mental health need.
The Sandy Mobilization, Assessment, Referral and Treatment for Mental Health (SMART-MH) program integrates community outreach and needs assessments to identify older adults with mental health and aging service needs. Older adults with significant anxiety or depressive symptoms were offered short-term psychotherapy. Social service referrals were made directly to community agencies. All SMART-MH activities were offered in Spanish, Russian, Mandarin/Cantonese, and English.
Across the full sample, 14% of participants screened positive for depression. Hurricane Sandy stressors predicted increased odds of depression, including storm injury, post-storm crime, and the total count of stressors. Outcomes varied significantly by age group, such that all Sandy-related variables remained significant for younger-old adults (aged 60–74 years), whereas only the loss of access to medical care was significant for older-old adults (aged ≥75 years).
Storm-affected communities show higher rates of depressive symptoms than seen in the general population, with storm stressors affecting mental health needs differentially by age group. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2017;11:97–109)
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