The Effect of Hurricane Katrina on Children

Hurricane Katrina's Impact on Children

New Orleans Marks 10th Anniversary Of Hurricane Katrina
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The effect of Hurricane Katrina is significant. Since the storm hit the United States Gulf Coast in late August 2005, a number of people and communities have felt its impact, and the negative effect of Hurricane Katrina continues to be felt today.

The Effect of Hurricane Katrina

Several studies have been done in an attempt to describe the impact of Hurricane Katrina. Many people were separated from their children, friends, neighbors and relatives.

In addition, their homes were destroyed or they were displaced from their homes for long periods of time. Additionally, people were also exposed to increased crime and violence as a result of the hurricane.

Given these experiences, it is not surprising that many developed symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression following Hurricane Katrina. Symptoms include upsetting memories and thoughts about the hurricane, feeling upset when being reminded of the hurricane, trying to avoid thoughts and feelings about the hurricane, having worries about future hurricanes, and feeling on edge and tense. However, less is known about the effect of Hurricane Katrina on children specifically.

Depression and Posttraumatic Stress Due to Hurricane Katrina in Children

Children may be particularly vulnerable to PTSD stress following exposure to a natural disaster like Hurricane Katrina. One group of researchers surveyed 2,362 4th- to 12th-grade children in the 2005-2006 school year and 4,896 4th- to 12th-grade children in 2006-2007 school year.

All children were from schools in Louisiana parishes that were affected by Hurricane Katrina.

They found that many children had experienced a great deal of stress as a result of the hurricane. Most had been displaced by the hurricane, had seen their neighborhood destroyed or damaged, and had lost personal belongings.

In addition, around a third had been separated from a caregiver and/or a pet during the storm or evacuation. Children also reported, to a lesser extent, seeing family members or friends injured or killed.

Given the stress that these children were exposed to, it makes sense that many experienced severe symptoms of depression and PTSD. In fact, this study found that about half of the children experienced high levels of depression and PTSD symptoms. An increased risk for these symptoms was correlated with:

  • currently being separated from a caregiver
  • living in a trailer
  • having to stay in a shelter
  • younger age, being female
  • having previous loss or trauma
  • having had family members or friends killed as a result of the hurricane
  • having personal belongings destroyed or damaged 

Coping With the Effects of a Natural Disaster

Natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina can have a major impact on a person's psychological health. If you are coping with the effects of a natural disaster, help is available. The National Center for PTSD provides a number of fact sheets on the effects of natural disasters and how to cope with them.

You can also find treatment providers in your area through UCompare HealthCare as well as the Anxiety Disorder Association of America.

Sources:

Mcleish, A.C., & Del Ben, K.S. (2008). Symptoms of depression and posttraumatic stress disorder in an outpatient population before and after Hurricane Katrina. Depression and Anxiety, 25, 416-421.

Osofsky, H.J., Osofsky, J.D., Kronenberg, M., Brennan, A., & Hansel, T.C. (2009). Posttraumatic stress symptoms in children after Hurricane Katrina: Predicting the need for mental health services. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry, 79, 212-220.

Weems, C.F., Watts, S.E., Marsee, M.A., Taylor, L.K., Costa, N.M., Cannon, M.F., Carrion, V.G., & Pina, A.A. (2007). The psychosocial impact of Hurricane Katrina: Contextual differences in psychological symptoms, social support, and discrimination. Behaviour Research and Therapy, 45, 2295-2306.

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