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Keywords:

  • disasters;
  • posttraumatic stress disorders;
  • PTSD;
  • stressful events;
  • time factors

Abstract

Background: We examined patterns and correlates of speed of recovery of estimated posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among people who developed PTSD in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Method: A probability sample of prehurricane residents of areas affected by Hurricane Katrina was administered a telephone survey 7–19 months following the hurricane and again 24–27 months posthurricane. The baseline survey assessed PTSD using a validated screening scale and assessed a number of hypothesized predictors of PTSD recovery that included sociodemographics, prehurricane history of psychopathology, hurricane-related stressors, social support, and social competence. Exposure to posthurricane stressors and course of estimated PTSD were assessed in a follow-up interview. Results: An estimated 17.1% of respondents had a history of estimated hurricane-related PTSD at baseline and 29.2% by the follow-up survey. Of the respondents who developed estimated hurricane-related PTSD, 39.0% recovered by the time of the follow-up survey with a mean duration of 16.5 months. Predictors of slow recovery included exposure to a life-threatening situation, hurricane-related housing adversity, and high income. Other sociodemographics, history of psychopathology, social support, social competence, and posthurricane stressors were unrelated to recovery from estimated PTSD. Conclusions: The majority of adults who developed estimated PTSD after Hurricane Katrina did not recover within 18–27 months. Delayed onset was common. Findings document the importance of initial trauma exposure severity in predicting course of illness and suggest that pre- and posttrauma factors typically associated with course of estimated PTSD did not influence recovery following Hurricane Katrina. Depression and Anxiety, 2011.  © 2011 Wiley-Liss, Inc.