Long-term psychological outcomes in older adults after disaster: relationships to religiosity and social support


natural and technological disasters, post-disaster mental health, post-traumatic stress, long-term recovery, British Petroleum oil spill, environmental loss


Objectives: Natural disasters are associated with catastrophic losses. Disaster survivors return to devastated communities and rebuild homes or relocate permanently, although the long-term psychological consequences are not well understood. The authors examined predictors of psychological outcomes in 219 residents of disaster-affected communities in south Louisiana.

Method: Current coastal residents with severe property damage from the 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and exposure to the 2010 British Petroleum Deepwater Horizon oil spill were compared and contrasted with former coastal residents and an indirectly affected control group. Participants completed measures of storm exposure and stressors, religiosity, perceived social support, and mental health.

Results: Non-organizational religiosity was a significant predictor of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in bivariate and multivariate logistic regressions. Follow-up analyses revealed that more frequent participation in non-organizational religious behaviors was associated with a heightened risk of PTSD. Low income and being a coastal fisher were significant predictors of depression symptoms in bivariate and multivariate models. Perceived social support had a protective effect for all mental health outcomes, which also held for symptoms of depression and GAD in multivariate models.

Conclusion: People who experienced recent and severe trauma related to natural and technological disasters are at risk for adverse psychological outcomes in the years after these events. Individuals with low income, low social support, and high levels of non-organizational religiosity are also at greater risk. Implications of these data for current views on the post-disaster psychological reactions and the development of age-sensitive interventions to promote long-term recovery are discussed.

Original Publication Citation

Cherry, K. E., Sampson, L., Nezat, P. F., Cacamo, A., Marks, L. D., & Galea, S. (2015). Long-term psychological outcomes in older adults after disaster: Relationships to religiosity and social support. Aging & Mental Health, 19, 430-443.

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Peer-Reviewed Article

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Aging & Mental Health




Family, Home, and Social Sciences


Family Life

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor