The Impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Mental and Physical Health of Low-Income Parents in New Orleans


  • This study was funded by National Institutes of Health Grant R01HD046162, the National Science Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, and the Princeton Center for Economic Policy Studies. We thank Thomas Brock and MDRC.

concerning this article should be addressed to Jean Rhodes, Department of Psychology, University of Massachusetts, Boston, MA 02125. Electronic mail may be sent to


The purpose of this study was to document changes in mental and physical health among 392 low-income parents exposed to Hurricane Katrina and to explore how hurricane-related stressors and loss relate to post-Katrina well-being. The prevalence of probable serious mental illness doubled, and nearly half of the respondents exhibited probable posttraumatic stress disorder. Higher levels of hurricane-related loss and stressors were generally associated with worse health outcomes, controlling for baseline sociodemographic and health measures. Higher baseline resources predicted fewer hurricane-associated stressors, but the consequences of stressors and loss were similar regardless of baseline resources. Adverse health consequences of Hurricane Katrina persisted for a year or more and were most severe for those experiencing the most stressors and loss. Long-term health and mental health services are needed for low-income disaster survivors, especially those who experience disaster-related stressors and loss.