Hurricane Sandy hit the eastern coast of the United States in October 2012, causing billions of dollars in damage and acute physical and mental health problems. The long-term mental health consequences of the storm and their predictors have not been studied. New York City and Long Island residents completed questionnaires regarding their initial Hurricane Sandy exposure and mental health symptoms at baseline and 1 year later (N = 130). There were statistically significant decreases in anxiety scores (mean difference = -0.33, p < 0.01) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) scores (mean difference = -1.98, p = 0.001) between baseline and follow-up. Experiencing a combination of personal and property damage was positively associated with long-term PTSD symptoms (ORadj 1.2, 95% CI [1.1-1.4]) but not with anxiety or depression. Having anxiety, depression, or PTSD at baseline was a significant predictor of persistent anxiety (ORadj 2.8 95% CI [1.1-6.8], depression (ORadj 7.4 95% CI [2.3-24.1) and PTSD (ORadj 4.1 95% CI [1.1-14.6]) at follow-up. Exposure to Hurricane Sandy has an impact on PTSD symptoms that persists over time. Given the likelihood of more frequent and intense hurricanes due to climate change, future hurricane recovery efforts must consider the long-term effects of hurricane exposure on mental health, especially on PTSD, when providing appropriate assistance and treatment.
Keywords: anxiety; depression; follow-up; natural disasters; post-traumatic stress disorder.