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This chapter summarizes the complex ways in which people experience disasters. These experiences are organized into categories of traumatic stressors, loss, ongoing adversities, and community effects and meanings. The chapter explores the most acutely severe and personally traumatic aspects of disaster exposure: loss of life and traumatic bereavement; threat to life, injury, and fear; and witnessing of horror. Damage to home and property, often accompanied by financial loss, may be the prototypical stressor associated with natural disasters. The acutely stressful experiences of trauma and loss are followed by a host of challenges associated with poor housing conditions, rebuilding, and other stressors in the postdisaster environment. Postdisaster stressors are typically captured in disaster research by measures of stressful life events or chronic stress. Development and validation of quantitative measures that encompass both universal and culture-specific responses to trauma could help address current cross-cultural and transnational assessment challenges.
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