Objective: Research has established the mental health sequelae following disaster, with studies now focused on understanding factors that mediate these outcomes. This study focused on anger, alcohol, subsequent life stressors and traumatic events as mediators in the development of mental health disorders following the 2009 Black Saturday Bushfires, Australia's worst natural disaster in over 100 years.
Method: This study examined data from 1017 (M = 404, F = 613) adult residents across 25 communities differentially affected by the fires and participating in the Beyond Bushfires research study. Data included measures of fire exposure, posttraumatic stress disorder, depression, alcohol abuse, anger and subsequent major life stressors and traumatic events. Structural equation modeling assessed the influence of factors mediating the effects of fire exposure on mental health outcomes.
Results: Three mediation models were tested. The final model recorded excellent fit and observed a direct relationship between disaster exposure and mental health outcomes (b = .192, p < .001) and mediating relationships via Anger (b = .102, p < .001) and Major Life Stressors (b = .128, p < .001). Each gender was compared with multiple group analyses and while the mediation relationships were still significant for both genders, the direct relationship between exposure and outcome was no longer significant for men (p = .069), but remained significant (b = .234, p < .001) for women.
Conclusions: Importantly, anger and major life stressors mediate the relationship between disaster exposure and development of mental health problems. The findings have significant implications for the assessment of anger post disaster, the provision of targeted anger-focused interventions and delivery of government and community assistance and support in addressing ongoing stressors in the post-disaster context to minimize subsequent mental health consequences.
Keywords: anger; disasters; life change events; mental health; sex.
© The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists 2015.