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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Mental Health Outcomes

Effects of a Major Climatic Event - Superstorm Sandy - On Pregnancy Outcomes and Telomere Length

Applicant Institution: Columbia University

Using a birth cohort which was recruited in the time period surrounding Hurricane Sandy, researchers at Columbia University examined associations between exposure to Hurricane Sandy and pregnancy outcomes and newborn leukocyte telomere length (LTL), a measure of chromosome tip length. Evidence suggests LTL is a marker of cumulative stress. In newborns, LTL would reflect characteristics of the parents and possibly capture stress during the in utero period. The results indicated that African American and Hispanic women, as well as women with less than a four-year college degree, exhibited higher level of Hurricane Sandy-related stress.

This project was funded by the NIH National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.


Effects of Hurricane Sandy on the Respiratory and Mental Health of WTC Responders

Applicant Institution: Stony Brook University

The Stony Brook World Trade Center Health Program provides yearly health monitoring and treatment to a cohort of 8,000 World Trade Center (WTC) responders. In this study, researchers evaluated levels of exposure to environmental toxins (i.e., mold) and psychological trauma as a result of Hurricane Sandy and their effects on respiratory and mental health in a sample of WTC responders living in Long Island. Overall, they found that severity of Hurricane Sandy-exposures was associated with increased depression and 9/11-related PTSD symptom severity, with the strongest associations found for financial hardships.

This project was funded by the NIH National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.


Development of a Vulnerability Profile of the Psychological Sequelae of Hurricane Sandy

Applicant Institution: The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research

In Project LIGHT Exit Icon(Leaders In Gathering Hope Together), researchers investigated associations between exposure to Hurricane Sandy and various mental health symptoms and diagnoses while also defining subgroups of individuals who were most vulnerable to the hurricane’s mental health effects. They found that greater hurricane exposure was associated with greater symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, depression, and generalized stress even after controlling for demographic factors, time since the hurricane, and history of mental health difficulties. Potential vulnerability factors include Hispanic ethnicity, history of mental health difficulties, and lower educational attainment. These results will be used to target current intervention strategies and to inform emergency preparedness efforts by indicating areas and groups to prioritize for mental health intervention during future natural disasters.

Learn more about this project in the following publications:

Kim H, Schwartz RM, Hirsch J, Silverman R, Liu B & Taioli E. (2016). Effect of Hurricane Sandy on Long Island Emergency Department Visits. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 1 Feb 2016 [Epub ahead of print]. PMID: 26833178.

Schwartz R, Liu B, Sison C, Kerath SM, Breil T, Murphy L & Taioli E. (2015). Study Design and Results of a Population-Based Study on Perceived Stress Following Hurricane Sandy. Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness, 10(3): 325-332. PMID: 27113715.

Schwartz RM, Rothenberg P, Kerath SM, Liu B & Taioli E. (2016). The Lasting Mental Health Effects of Hurricane Sandy on Residents of the Rockaways. Journal of Emergency Management, 14(4): 269-79. PMID: 27575642.

Schwartz RM, Sison C, Kerath SM, Murphy L, Breil T, Sikavi D & Taioli E. (2016). The impact of Hurricane Sandy on the mental health of New York Area residents. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, 10(4): 339-46. PMID: 27149315.

This project was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.


The Efficacy of a Brief Resilience Training Program for Hurricane Sandy Disaster Responders:

Applicant Institutions: The State University of New York, Stony Brook and The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, and Rutgers University School of Public Health

This project adapted and tested the efficacy of the NIEHS Disaster Worker Resilience Training (DWRT) Program for Hurricane Sandy responders.

This project was funded by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.


Longitudinal Study of Mental Health & Post-Traumatic Growth in Responders & Community Members Affected by Hurricane Sandy

Applicant Institutions: The State University of New York, Stony Brook and The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research

This project comparatively analyzed disaster responder mental health and post-traumatic growth data from the Hurricane Sandy and the World Trade Center disasters, and examined changes in mental health via new quantitative and qualitative assessments.

This project was funded by the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response.

  • This page last reviewed: January 02, 2018