Previous research has documented that individuals exposed to more stressors during disasters and their immediate aftermath (immediate stressors) are at risk of experiencing longer-term postdisaster stressors. Longer-term stressors, in turn, have been found to play a key role in shaping postdisaster psychological functioning. Few studies have simultaneously explored the links from immediate to longer-term stressors, and from longer-term stressors to psychological functioning, however. Additionally, studies have inadequately explored whether postdisaster psychological symptoms influence longer-term stressors. In the current study, we aimed to fill these gaps. Participants (N = 448) were from population-based study of Hurricane Ike survivors and completed assessments 2-5 months (Wave 1), 5-9 months (Wave 2) and 14-18 months (Wave 3) postdisaster. Through path analysis, we found that immediate stressors, assessed at Wave 1, were positively associated with Wave 2 and Wave 3 stressors, which in turn were positively associated with Wave 2 and Wave 3 posttraumatic stress and depressive symptoms. Wave 2 posttraumatic stress symptoms were positively associated with Wave 3 stressors, and Wave 1 depressive symptoms were positively associated with Wave 2 stressors. The findings suggest that policies and interventions can reduce the impact of disasters on mental health by preventing and alleviating both immediate and longer-term postdisaster stressors.
Copyright © 2013 International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies.