Trajectories of psychological distress among low-income, female survivors of Hurricane Katrina

Am J Orthopsychiatry. Apr-Jul 2013;83(2 Pt 3):398-412. doi: 10.1111/ajop.12019.


The purpose of this study was to investigate trajectories of psychological distress among low-income, primarily unmarried and African American women who survived Hurricane Katrina (N = 386). Data were collected in the year prior to the hurricane as well as approximately 1 and 3 years thereafter. Using Latent Class Growth Analysis (LCGA), we detected 6 distinct trajectory groups. Over half of the participants fit into a trajectory consistent with resilience; that is, they maintained low levels of psychological distress over the course of the study, but experienced an elevation in symptoms at the first predisaster time point followed by a return to predisaster levels. The other trajectories reflected a range of psychological responses to disasters and indicated that predisaster functioning had a major influence on postdisaster psychological outcomes. Degree of exposure to hurricane-related stressors, experiences of human and pet bereavement, perceived social support, and socioeconomic status were significant predictors of trajectory group membership. Implications for research and policy are discussed.

Keywords: Hurricane Katrina; delayed distress; disaster exposure; displacement; human bereavement; hurricane survivors; pet loss; postdisaster psychological distress; women.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / psychology*
  • Bereavement
  • Cyclonic Storms
  • Disasters
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Humans
  • New Orleans
  • Poverty / psychology*
  • Social Class
  • Social Support
  • Stress, Psychological / diagnosis*
  • Survivors / psychology*