Economics of disaster risk, social vulnerability, and mental health resilience

Risk Anal. 2011 Jul;31(7):1107-19. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2010.01580.x. Epub 2011 Feb 8.


We investigate the relationship between exposure to Hurricanes Katrina and/or Rita and mental health resilience by vulnerability status, with particular focus on the mental health outcomes of single mothers versus the general public. We advance a measurable notion of mental health resilience to disaster events. We also calculate the economic costs of poor mental health days added by natural disaster exposure. Negative binomial analyses show that hurricane exposure increases the expected count of poor mental health days for all persons by 18.7% (95% confidence interval [CI], 7.44-31.14%), and by 71.88% (95% CI, 39.48-211.82%) for single females with children. Monthly time-series show that single mothers have lower event resilience, experiencing higher added mental stress. Results also show that the count of poor mental health days is sensitive to hurricane intensity, increasing by a factor of 1.06 (95% CI, 1.02-1.10) for every billion (U.S.$) dollars of damage added for all exposed persons, and by a factor of 1.08 (95% CI, 1.03-1.14) for single mothers. We estimate that single mothers, as a group, suffered over $130 million in productivity loss from added postdisaster stress and disability. Results illustrate the measurability of mental health resilience as a two-dimensional concept of resistance capacity and recovery time. Overall, we show that natural disasters regressively tax disadvantaged population strata.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Algorithms
  • Cyclonic Storms
  • Disaster Planning
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / diagnosis
  • Mental Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Models, Statistical
  • Mothers
  • Poverty
  • Risk
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Social Class
  • Social Support
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • Time Factors
  • Vulnerable Populations / statistics & numerical data*