December 3, 2007 / 11:40 PM / 12 years ago

Mental disorders rife after Hurricane Katrina-study

CHICAGO (Reuters) - About half of adult New Orleans residents suffered from anxiety and mood disorders months after Hurricane Katrina devastated the city, a higher rate than after most natural disasters, researchers said on Monday.

Depression, panic disorders, and post-traumatic stress were diagnosed in 49 percent of New Orleans residents surveyed five to seven months after the storm struck on August 29, 2005, the study found.

About one-quarter of U.S. Gulf Coast residents of Mississippi and Alabama affected by the monster storm were found to suffer from anxiety and mood disorders, lower than in New Orleans and comparable to rates from similar disasters.

The researchers concluded that the slow government response to the hurricane in New Orleans created “avoidable stressors” on people who lived through the storm, which killed more than 1,400 people and uprooted 500,000 along the Gulf Coast.

“(The evidence) argues strongly for the importance of efficient provision of practical and logistical assistance in future disasters, not only on humanitarian grounds, but also as a way to minimize the adverse mental health effects of disasters,” study author Dr. Sandro Galea of the University of Michigan School of Public Health, in Ann Arbor, wrote in the Archives of General Psychiatry.

Based on interviews with 1,043 adults, those most susceptible to mental disorders were people with lower incomes or who were unemployed before the hurricane, or those who were unmarried.

Reporting by Andrew Stern

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