Giving Compass' Take:
- Timothy Schnettler explains that studies show that repeated exposure to natural disasters can significantly lower mental health scores.
- How can disaster relief preparedness consider mental health implications? What can disaster funders improve to help address looming mental health crises?
- Read about the mental health consequences of climate change.
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Repeated exposure to major disasters does not make people mentally stronger, a recent study finds.
In fact, individuals who have been repeatedly exposed to major disasters show a reduction in mental health scores, the researchers report.
Additionally, the researchers found that the more experience people had with such events, the lower their mental health.
“We discovered the reverse of the adage ‘what does not kill you makes you stronger,'” says lead author Garett Sansom, research assistant professor in the department of environmental and occupational health at the School of Public Health at Texas A&M University.
For the study in the journal Natural Hazards, Sansom and colleagues studied people from the Houston area, which is susceptible to hurricanes and flooding as well as industrial emergencies.
From 2000 to 2020, Texas—one of the states most prone to natural disasters—experienced 33 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared major disasters. Many of these—hurricanes, winter weather, drought, and flooding affected the Houston area. Emergencies such as explosions and chemical releases at nearby industrial facilities have also affected the area.
According to the research team, the combination of natural disasters and emergencies from industrial facilities presents a unique opportunity to observe the effects.
“There is an unfortunate truth that many communities that reside along the Gulf Coast are at the nexus of exposures from natural and anthropogenic, or human-caused, hazards,” Sansom says.
Read the full article about mental health and natural disasters by Timothy Schnettler at Futurity.