Date of Award

12-19-2008

Degree Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Michael Eriksen - Chair

Second Advisor

Prof. John A. Steward

Third Advisor

Dr. Ike S. Okosun

Abstract

It is very important to study the mental health impact of disasters to provide adequate mental health services when there is an increased demand of mental health services and a concurrent deterioration of mental healthcare capacity after disasters. This study examined the mental health impact of 9/11 attacks among the individuals living close to the disaster area and compared them to the individuals living farther from the disaster area. New York (NY) state and Washington DC were selected as the disaster areas and Illinois (IL) was selected to study individuals living farther from the disaster area. The study also assessed the effects of mental health on risky behaviors such as cigarette smoking and alcohol consumption and how they vary based on age, gender and proximity to the disaster. Ten year Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) data from 1996-2005 was obtained for NY, DC and IL. Significant increase in mental distress was observed in NY and DC but not in IL. Increased use of alcohol was found among DC and NY residents but the increase in IL was not significant. Logistic regression showed that increase in alcohol consumption was not associated with mental health. An overall decrease in cigarette smoking was observed and there was no impact of disaster on smoking rates. Mental distress was much higher among the female respondents as compared to the male respondents. Mental distress was highest among 35- 49 year old respondents as compared to other age groups. In future longitudinal studies should be conducted in order to establish the causal relationship of mental health and risk behaviors such as smoking and alcohol consumption after disasters. Most of the interventions regarding post-disaster mental health focus on PTSD but other mental disorders should also be addressed.

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