Prior experience as a moderator of disaster impact on anxiety symptoms in older adults

Am J Community Psychol. 1988 Oct;16(5):665-83. doi: 10.1007/BF00930020.


As participants in a panel study, 234 older adults were interviewed before, as well as after, serious flooding occurred in southeastern Kentucky. Floods are not uncommon in this area, but these were more widespread than most, and resulted in both previously exposed and newly exposed subsamples of disaster victims. Flood impact was measured at both personal and community levels. With preflood symptoms controlled, there were modest flood effects on both trait anxiety and weather-specific distress in older adults without prior flood experience, but no flood effects in older adults who had been in floods before. Thus, the study provides support for the "inoculation hypothesis" and other conceptualizations that emphasize the advantage of being familiar or experienced with a stressor that is at hand. An implication is that "experienced" victims could be a valuable resource in prevention efforts.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Anxiety / prevention & control
  • Anxiety / psychology*
  • Disasters*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Kentucky
  • Life Change Events*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice, Psychological