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Soc Sci Med. 2014 Jul;113:137-44. doi: 10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.05.025. Epub 2014 May 17.

The impact of housing displacement on the mental health of low-income parents after Hurricane Katrina.

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Sociology Department, Washington State University, Pullman, WA, USA. Electronic address:
Epidemiology Department, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY, USA.


Previous studies in the aftermath of natural disasters have demonstrated relationships between four dimensions of displacement - geographic distance from the predisaster community, type of postdisaster housing, number of postdisaster moves, and time spent in temporary housing - and adverse psychological outcomes. However, to date no study has explored how these dimensions operate in tandem. The literature is further limited by a reliance on postdisaster data. We addressed these limitations in a study of low-income parents, predominantly non-Hispanic Black single mothers, who survived Hurricane Katrina and who completed pre and postdisaster assessments (N = 392). Using latent profile analysis, we demonstrated three profiles of displacement experiences within the sample: (1) returned, characterized by return to a predisaster community; (2) relocated, characterized by relocation to a new community, and (3) unstably housed, characterized by long periods in temporary housing and multiple moves. Using regression analyses, we assessed the relationship between displacement profiles and three mental health outcomes (general psychological distress, posttraumatic stress, and perceived stress), controlling for predisaster characteristics and mental health indices and hurricane-related experiences. Relative to participants in the returned profile, those in the relocated profile had significantly higher general psychological distress and perceived stress, and those in the unstably housed profile had significantly higher perceived stress. Based on these results, we suggest interventions and policies that reduce postdisaster housing instability and prioritize mental health services in communities receiving evacuees.


Displacement; Hurricane Katrina; Latent profile analysis; Natural disasters; Perceived stress; Posttraumatic stress; Psychological distress; Secondary stressors

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