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Many Katrina Survivors Suffered Psychological Symptoms

Mood, anxiety disorders hit almost half of New Orleans residents in months after the disaster, study found

TUESDAY, Dec. 4 (HealthDay News) -- About half the people living in New Orleans and about one-quarter of those living in other areas hit by Hurricane Katrina showed signs of a mood or anxiety disorder five to seven months after the disaster, according to a new study.

Researchers surveyed 1,043 residents in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi.

They found that that 31.2 percent of respondents had an anxiety-mood disorder, including 49.1 percent of those in New Orleans metropolitan area and 26.4 percent of those in the other areas. In addition, 16.3 percent of respondents had post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including 30.3 percent of New Orleans residents and 12.5 percent of people living in the other areas.

Anxiety-mood disorders were most likely to occur in people who were younger than age 60, female, did not graduate from college, had low family income, and were unmarried or unemployed before the hurricane. With the exception of blacks, minorities had lower rates of these conditions.

"The vast majority of respondents both in the New Orleans metro (91.9 percent) and in the remainder of the sample (81.7 percent) reported experiencing at least one of the 10 categories of hurricane-related stressors," including injury, robbery, property loss, or the death of a loved one, wrote Dr. Sandro Galeo, of the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, and fellow study authors.

Among New Orleans residents, the extent of exposure to such stressors was more strongly related to anxiety-mood disorders than among people living in other areas. The researchers also found that New Orleans residents were most likely to develop anxiety-mood disorders following physical illness or injury, or physical adversity, while people living in other areas were more likely to develop anxiety-mood disorders following property loss.

The study is published in the December issue of the journal Archives of General Psychiatry.

More information

The American Psychological Association has more about natural disasters.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: JAMA/Archives journals, news release, Dec. 3, 2007

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