Few studies have assessed the results of multiple exposures to disaster. Our objective was to examine the effect of experiencing Hurricane Gustav on mental health of women previously exposed to Hurricane Katrina. A total of 102 women from Southern Louisiana were interviewed by telephone. Experience of the hurricanes was assessed with questions about injury, danger and damage, while depression was assessed with the Edinburgh Depression Scale and post-traumatic stress disorder using the Post-Traumatic Checklist. Minor stressors, social support, trait resilience and perceived benefit had been measured previously. Mental health was examined with linear and log-linear models. Women who had a severe experience of both Gustav and Katrina scored higher on the mental health scales, but finding new ways to cope after Katrina or feeling more prepared was not protective. About half the population had better mental health scores after Gustav than at previous measures. Improvement was more likely among those who reported high social support or low levels of minor stressors, or were younger. Trait resilience mitigated the effect of hurricane exposure. Multiple disaster experiences are associated with worse mental health overall, although many women are resilient. Perceiving benefit after the first disaster was not protective.
© 2010 Blackwell Publishing.