Received and Perceived Social Support Following Natural Disaster1


  • 1

    This research was supported by Grant No. MH40411 from the National Institute of Mental Health, Fran H. Norris, Ph.D., Principal Investigator. Some of the data were collected through support by Grant No. MH33063 from the Center for Epidemiologic Studies, National Institute of Mental Health, Stanley A. Murrell Ph.D., Principal Investigator. Appreciation is extended to James F. Phifer and two anonymous reviewers for their comments on an earlier draft of this manuscript.

Direct all correspondence to Fran H. Norris, Department of Psychology, Georgia State University, Atlanta, Georgia 30303.


Because they were participating in a concurrent panel study, 222 older adults had been asked how much help they would expect to receive in a hypothetical emergency before experiencing two separate floods. For the subsample suffering losses or injuries during the floods, Study 1 examined the accuracy of their expectations, as well as possible changes in them, as a result of help actually received. Generally, victims received much less help than they had expected to receive prior to the floods. Preflood expectation of support predicted help from kin, whereas loss and education predicted help from nonkin sources. However, subsequent expectations did not change as a result of the level of help received. Using the total sample, Study 2 examined the broader issue of whether the disaster itself affected subsequent perceptions of support. Flood exposure, as measured at both individual and community levels, was associated with declines in perceptions of support and social participation.