Mental health implications for older adults after natural disasters--a systematic review and meta-analysis

Int Psychogeriatr. 2016 Jan;28(1):11-20. doi: 10.1017/S1041610215001210. Epub 2015 Jul 27.


Background: Natural disasters affect the health and well-being of adults throughout the world. There is some debate in the literature as to whether older persons have increased risk of mental health outcomes after exposure to natural disasters when compared with younger adults. To date, no systematic review has evaluated this. We aimed to synthesize the available evidence on the impact of natural disasters on the mental health and psychological distress experienced by older adults.

Design: A meta-analysis was conducted on papers identified through a systematic review. The primary outcomes measured were post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, anxiety disorders, adjustment disorder, and psychological distress.

Results: We identified six papers with sufficient data for a random effects meta-analysis. Older adults were 2.11 times more likely to experience PTSD symptoms and 1.73 more likely to develop adjustment disorder when exposed to natural disasters when compared with younger adults.

Conclusions: Given the global rise in the number of older adults affected by natural disasters, mental health services need to be prepared to meet their needs following natural disasters, particularly around the early detection and management of PTSD.

Keywords: mental health; meta-analysis; natural disaster; older persons; post-traumatic stress disorder.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Adjustment Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Aged
  • Anxiety / epidemiology*
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Disasters*
  • Geriatric Psychiatry
  • Humans
  • Mental Health Services
  • Publication Bias
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*