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Katrina Survivors Suffer from Anxiety-Mood Disorders

Prevalence of mental illness higher than typically found after a natural disaster

MONDAY, Dec. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Hurricane survivors faced with ongoing stressors are more likely to experience anxiety-mood disorders, according to a report published in the December issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Sandro Galea, M.D., of the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor, and colleagues surveyed a sample of 1,043 English-speaking pre-hurricane residents of the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina. The researchers analyzed telephone survey responses using the K6 screening scale of anxiety and mood disorders, and the Trauma Screening Questionnaire scale for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

The 30-day prevalence of any DSM-IV anxiety-mood disorder in the New Orleans metropolitan area was 49.1 percent, while the prevalence was 26.4 percent in the remainder of the sample. The prevalence of PTSD was 30.3 percent in the metropolitan sub-sample and 12.5 percent in the remainder. Outcome in the metropolitan sub-sample was strongly related to the extent of stressor exposure, including physical illness/injury and physical adversity. Property loss was the main stressor in the remainder of the sample.

"Efforts to address the problem of increased mental illness in the wake of the hurricane must address the needs of persons in all segments of society," the authors write. "This may be particularly challenging for prehurricane residents of the New Orleans metro, many of whom are now living throughout the country."

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