Date of Award

1-5-2018

Degree Type

Capstone Project

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)

Department

Public Health

First Advisor

Dr. Betty Lai

Second Advisor

Dr. Shubhayu Saha

Abstract

Abstract

Examining the relationship between drought and mental health outcomes of depression and anxiety in the U.S.

By

Robyn J. Cathey

December 4, 2017

BACKGROUND: Drought is likely linked to depression and anxiety through environmental and economic factors. Having a better understanding of this relationship would assist public health officials and policy-makers in future drought preparedness and mitigation strategies.

METHODS: Depression and anxiety data were collected for 36 states from HCUPnet, an online system of hospital inpatient and emergency department information. Drought data were collected from the U.S. Drought Monitor, a weekly monitor integrating multiple drought indices to produce a single index, for 2011-2014. Proportions were calculated for state hospital mental health discharges from total state hospital discharges. Annual state drought data was dichotomized based on a 30% areal drought threshold for drought exposure conditions. Repeated measures ANOVA was used for analysis of the relationship between states’ depression and anxiety discharges and states’ drought exposure.

RESULTS: The effect of time on depression was significantly different for states in the exposed and unexposed condition, F (3, 32) = 4.22, p = 0.01. The effect of time on anxiety was not different for states in the exposed and unexposed drought conditions, F (3, 32) = 1.92, p = 0.15. Post-hoc comparisons using four paired samples t-tests indicated a significant effect of drought exposure on depression comparing exposed drought condition with unexposed drought condition during 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. A significant effect of drought exposure condition on anxiety comparing exposed drought condition with unexposed drought condition during 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014.

CONCLUSION: Depression and anxiety discharges differed over time and between states in the exposed and unexposed drought conditions from 2011-2014. Depression and anxiety discharges were higher for states in the unexposed drought condition. Further research would refine the examination of this relationship.

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