The course of posttraumatic stress symptoms and functional impairment following a disaster: What is the lasting influence of acute versus ongoing traumatic events and stressors?

Magdalena Cerda, P. M. Bordelois, S. Galea, F. Norris, M. Tracy, K. C. Koenen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

31 Scopus citations

Abstract

Purpose: Ongoing traumatic events and stressors, rather than acute sources of trauma, may shape long-term post-disaster mental health. The purpose of this study was to compare the influence of acute hurricane-related exposures and ongoing post-hurricane exposures on the short- and long-term course of posttraumatic stress symptoms (PTSS) and functional impairment (FI). Methods: A random sample of adults (n = 658) in Galveston and Chambers Counties, Texas, was selected 2-6 months after Hurricane Ike and interviewed 3 times over 18 months. Hurricane-related exposures included traumatic events such as death of a family member due to the hurricane and stressors such as loss/damage to personal property due to the hurricane. Post-hurricane exposures included traumatic events such as sexual assault and stressors such as divorce or serious financial problems. Results: Experiencing an acute hurricane-related traumatic event or stressor was associated with initial post-hurricane PTSS [RR = 1.92 (95 % CI = 1.13-3.26) and RR = 1.62 (1.36-1.94), respectively] and FI [RR = 1.76; (1.05-2.97) and RR = 1.74 (1.46-2.08)], respectively, and acute hurricane-related stressors were associated with a higher rate of increase in FI over time [RR = 1.09; (1.01-1.19)]. In contrast, ongoing post-hurricane daily stressors were not associated within initial PTSS and FI, but were associated with PTSS and FI at the second and third interviews. Conclusions: While immediate postdisaster interventions may influence short-term mental health, investment in the prevention of ongoing stressors may be instrumental to manage long-term mental health status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)385-395
Number of pages11
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Volume48
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 1 2013
Externally publishedYes

Keywords

  • Daily stressors
  • Disasters
  • Functional impairment
  • Posttraumatic stress disorder
  • Traumatic events

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Health(social science)
  • Social Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health

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