Factors Associated with Distress in Urban Residential Fire Survivors


  • This research was supported by Grant No. MH 45139 from the National Institute of Mental Health, Anne Keane, Principal Investigator and Grant No. P50 NR0234 from the National Institute of Nursing Research, Ruth McCorkle, Director, and Barbara Lowery, Co-Director.

Dr. Keane, School of Nursing, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104–6096. E-mail: akeane@nursing.upenn.edu


Purpose: To identify factors associated with recovery in a sample of urban residential fire survivors.

Design and Methods: 440 survivors of residential fires were interviewed at approximately 3, 6, and 13 months after the fire to measure psychological distress. A set of factors was identified that correlated with survivors' ability to recover from the fire event. Potential predictors of increased distress were identified. Hypotheses were that participants who were lower in socioeconomic status, who were minority members, who had less social support, who engaged in attributional thinking, and had greater concurrent life stresses would have greater psychological distress in response to a residential fire and would be less able to recover from the fire event.

Findings: Distress after fire was high at 3 months and decreased for the majority of participants, although one-third of survivors had higher distress at 13 months than at 3 months. Loss of control and attributional variables had the strongest influence on psychological distress over time.

Conclusions: The findings are consistent with stress-response tendencies expected after a stressful event. A set of predictor variables was identified to help clinicians target survivors at high risk for psychological distress after a residential fire.