What is the Impact of Repeated Exposure to Major Disasters?

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“We discovered the reverse of the adage ‘what does not kill you makes you stronger,'” said the study’s lead author Garett Sansom, research assistant professor in the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health at the School of Public Health.



Sansom and a team of Texas A&M researchers studied individuals from the Houston area, which is susceptible to hurricanes and flooding as well as industrial emergencies.

From 2000 to 2020, Texas is one of the state’s most prone to natural disasters, which experienced 33 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared major disasters.

Many of these were hurricanes, winter weather, drought, and flooding that impacted the Houston area. The area has also been impacted by emergencies such as explosions and chemical releases at nearby industrial facilities.

According to the research team, the combination of natural disasters and emergencies from industrial facilities presents a unique opportunity to observe the impacts.

The team used a 12-item short-form health survey to gather information. The survey assessed cumulative impacts from exposure to evaluate changes over time, producing a composite score for both mental (MCS) and physical (PCS) health.

The majority of the respondents reported that they experienced many hazardous events over the past five years. Hurricanes and flooding (96.35 percent) were the events experienced the most, followed by industrial fires (96.08), chemical spills (86.84), and tornados (79.82).

They found that when individuals experienced two or more events over the past five years, their MCS averages fell below the expected national levels.

Mental health is often overlooked in responding to and preparing for hazard exposures. However, to reach community resilience efforts, mental conditions need to be accounted for.

The results of the study help to reveal the long-term mental impact hazards can have. More importantly, they underscore the need for public health interventions targeted toward these individuals as well as the communities where they reside.

Source: Medindia



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