The impact of Hurricane Sandy on the mental health of New York area residents


  • Rebecca M. Schwartz, PhD
  • Cristina Sison, PhD
  • Samantha M. Kerath, MS
  • Lisa Murphy, BA
  • Trista Breil, MA
  • Daniel Sikavi
  • Emanuela Taioli, MD, PhD



Hurricane Sandy, mental health, New York residents


Objective: To evaluate the long-term psychological impact of Hurricane Sandy on New York residents.

Design: Prospective, cross-sectional study.

Setting: Community-based study.

Participants: From October 2013 to February 2015, 669 adults in Long Island, Queens, and Staten Island completed a survey on their behavioral and psychological health, demographics, and hurricane impact (ie, exposure).

Main outcome measures: Depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Results: Using multivariable logistic regression models, the relationships between Hurricane Sandy exposure and depression, anxiety, and PTSD were examined. Participants experienced an average of 3.9 exposures to Hurricane Sandy, most of which were related to property damage/loss. Probable depression was reported in 33.4 percent of participants, probable anxiety in 46 percent, and probable PTSD in 21.1 percent. Increased exposure to Hurricane Sandy was significantly associated with a greater likelihood of depression (odds ratio [OR] = 1.09, 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.04-1.14), anxiety (OR = 1.08, 95% CI: 1.03-1.13), and probable PTSD (OR = 1.32, 95% CI: 1.23-1.40), even after controlling for demographic factors known to increase susceptibility to mental health issues.

Conclusions: Individuals affected by Hurricane Sandy reported high levels of mental health issues and were at an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and PTSD in the years following the storm. Recovery and prevention efforts should focus on mental health issues in affected populations.

Author Biographies

Rebecca M. Schwartz, PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Occupational Medicine, Epidemiology and Prevention, Hofstra Northwell School of Medicine, Great Neck, New York

Cristina Sison, PhD

Senior Research Statistician, Biostatistics Unit, Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Northwell Health, Manhasset, New York

Samantha M. Kerath, MS

Administrative Manager for Research, Department of Occupational Medicine, Epidemiology and Prevention and Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Northwell Health, Manhasset, New York

Lisa Murphy, BA

Commissioner, Nassau County Department of Human Services, Uniondale, New York

Trista Breil, MA

Grants Manager, Nassau County Department of Human Services, Uniondale, New York

Daniel Sikavi

Research Assistant, Department of Occupational Medicine, Epidemiology and Prevention and Feinstein Institute for Medical Research, Northwell Health, Manhasset, New York

Emanuela Taioli, MD, PhD

Professor, Department of Population Health Science and Policy and Institute for Translational Epidemiology, The Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York, New York.



CNN Wire Staff: By the numbers: Superstorm Sandy. CNN. November 3, 2012.

Walsh MW, Schwartz ND: Estimate of Economic Losses Now up to $50 Billion. 2012. Available at Accessed July 21, 2015.

Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force: Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Strategy: Stronger Communities, A Resilient Region. Washington, DC: US Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2013.

Blake E, Kimberlain T, Berg R, et al.: Tropical Cyclone Report: Hurricane Sandy. Miami, FL: National Hurricane Center, 12 February 2013.

Schmeltz MT, Gonzalez SK, Fuentes L, et al.: Lessons from Hurricane Sandy: A community response in Brooklyn, New York. J Urban Health. 2013; 90(5): 799-809.

Subaiya S, Moussavi C, Velasquez A, et al.: A rapid needs assessment of the Rockaway Peninsula in New York City after Hurricane Sandy and the relationship of socioeconomic status to recovery. Am J Public Health. 2014; 104(4): 632-638.

Diglio M, Benedetto NA, Raneri J: Along came Sandy. How NYC REMSCO helped coordinate the evacuation of 6000-plus patients during Superstorm Sandy. JEMS. 2013; 38(5): 32-38.

Office of Inspector General: Hospital Emergency Preparedness and Response During Superstorm Sandy. Washington, DC: US Department of Health and Human Services, September 16, 2014.

Tompson T, Benz J, Agiesta J, et al.: Resilience in the Wake of Superstorm Sandy. Chicago, IL: The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 2013.

Noyes RL: Home care emergency response: Hurricane Sandy lessons learned and actions taken. Caring. 2013; 32(5): 10-14.

Howard D, Zhang R, Huang Y, et al.: Hospitalization rates among dialysis patients during Hurricane Katrina. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2012; 27(4): 325-329.

Galea S, Nandi A, Vlahov D: The epidemiology of post-traumatic stress disorder after disasters. Epidemiol Rev. 2005; 27: 78-91.

Neria Y, Nandi A, Galea S: Post-traumatic stress disorder following disasters: A systematic review. Psychol Med. 2008; 38(4): 467-480.

Norris FH, Perilla JL, Riad JK, et al.: Stability and change in stress, resources, and psychological distress following natural disaster: Findings from hurricane Andrew. Anxiety Stress Coping. 1999; 12(4): 363-396.

Green G, Lowe SR, Rhodes JE: What can multiwave studies teach us about disaster research: An analysis of low-income Hurricane Katrina survivors. J Traum Stress. 2012; 25(3): 299-306.

Gros DF, Price M, Gros KS, et al.: Relations between loss of services and psychiatric symptoms in urban and non-urban settings following a natural disaster. J Psychopathol Behav Assess. 2012; 34(3): 343-350.

Leon KA, Hyre AD, Ompad D, et al.: Perceived stress among a workforce 6 months following hurricane Katrina. Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2007; 42(12): 1005-1011.

Paxson C, Fussell E, Rhodes J, et al.: Five years later: Recovery from post traumatic stress and psychological distress among low-income mothers affected by Hurricane Katrina. Soc Sci Med. 2012; 74(2): 150-157.

Bonanno GA, Galea S, Bucciarelli A, et al.: What predicts psychological resilience after disaster? The role of demographics, resources, and life stress. J Consult Clin Psychol. 2007; 75(5): 671-682.

Edmondson D, Gamboa C, Cohen A, et al.: Association of posttraumatic stress disorder and depression with all-cause and cardiovascular disease mortality and hospitalization among Hurricane Katrina survivors with end-stage renal disease. Am J Public Health. 2013; 103(4): e130-e137.

Abramson D, Stehling-Ariza T, Garfield R, et al.: Prevalence and predictors of mental health distress post-Katrina: Findings from the Gulf Coast Child and Family Health Study. Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2008; 2(2): 77-86.

Galea S, Brewin CR, Gruber M, et al.: Exposure to hurricane-related stressors and mental illness after Hurricane Katrina. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2007; 64(12): 1427-1434.

Pietrzak RH, Tracy M, Galea S, et al.: Resilience in the face of disaster: Prevalence and longitudinal course of mental disorders following hurricane Ike. PLoS ONE. 2012; 7(6): e38964.

Tucker P, Pfefferbaum B, Jeon-Slaughter H, et al.: Emotional stress and heart rate variability measures associated with cardiovascular risk in relocated Katrina survivors. Psychosom Med. 2012; 74(2): 160-168.

Beaudoin CE: Hurricane Katrina: Addictive behavior trends and predictors. Public Health Rep. 2011; 126(3): 400-409.

Sastry N, Gregory J: The effect of Hurricane Katrina on the prevalence of health impairments and disability among adults in New Orleans: Differences by age, race, and sex. Soc Sci Med. 2013; 80: 121-129.

Sastry N, VanLandingham M: One year later: Mental illness prevalence and disparities among New Orleans residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina. Am J Public Health. 2009; 99(suppl 3): S725-S731.

Toldson IA, Ray K, Hatcher SS, et al.: Examining the longterm racial disparities in health and economic conditions among Hurricane Katrina survivors: Policy implications for Gulf Coast recovery. J Black Stud. 2011; 42(3): 360-378.

Brewin CR, Andrews B, Valentine JD: Meta-analysis of risk factors for posttraumatic stress disorder in trauma-exposed adults. J Consul Clin Psychol. 2000; 68(5): 748-766.

Rutkow L, Vernick JS, Mojtabai R, et al.: Legal challenges for substance abuse treatment during disasters. Psychiatr Serv. 2012; 63(1): 7-9.

Sullivan G, Vasterling JJ, Han X, et al.: Preexisting mental illness and risk for developing a new disorder after hurricane Katrina. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2013; 201(2): 161-166.

Wang PS, Gruber MJ, Powers RE, et al.: Disruption of existing mental health treatments and failure to initiate new treatment after Hurricane Katrina. Am J Psychiatry. 2008; 165(1): 34-41.

Stanley E, Muntner P, Re RN, et al.: Quality of life in hypertensive clinic patients following Hurricane Katrina. Ochsner J. 2011; 11(3): 226-231.

Schreiber MD, Yin R, Omaish M, et al.: Snapshot from Superstorm Sandy: American Red Cross mental health risk surveillance in lower New York State. Ann Emerg Med. 2014; 64(1): 59-65.

Boscarino JA, Hoffman SN, Kirchner HL, et al.: Mental health outcomes at the Jersey Shore after Hurricane Sandy. Int J Emerg Ment Health. 2013; 15(3): 147-158.

Lowe SR, Sampson L, Gruebner O, et al.: Psychological resilience after Hurricane Sandy: The influence of individual- and community-level factors on mental health after a large-scale natural disaster. PLoS ONE. 2015; 10(5): e0125761.

Gruebner O, Lowe SR, Sampson L, et al.: The geography of postdisaster mental health: Spatial patterning of psychological vulnerability and resilience factors in New York City after Hurricane Sandy. Int J Health Geogr. 2015; 14: 16.

Caramanica K, Brackbill RM, Stellman SD, et al.: Posttraumatic stress disorder after Hurricane Sandy among persons exposed to the 9/11 disaster. Int J Emerg Ment Health. 2015; 17(1): 356-362.

Harville EW, Xiong X, Smith BW, et al.: Combined effects of Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Gustav on the mental health of mothers of small children. J Psychiatr Ment Health Nurs. 2011; 18(4): 288-296.

Weathers F, Litz B, Herman D, et al.: The PTSD Checklist (PCL): Reliability, validity, and diagnostic utility. Paper presented at the Annual Convention of the International Society for Traumatic Stress Studies, San Antonio, TX, October 1993.

Cerda M, Bordelois PM, Galea S, et al.: The course of posttraumatic stress symptoms and functional impairment following a disaster: What is the lasting influence of acute versus ongoing traumatic events and stressors? Soc Psychiatry Psychiatr Epidemiol. 2013; 48(3): 385-395.

Hyre AD, Benight CC, Tynes LL, et al.: Psychometric properties of the Hurricane Coping Self-Efficacy measure following Hurricane Katrina. J Nerv Ment Dis. 2008; 196(7): 562-567.

Pietrzak RH, Van Ness PH, Fried TR, et al.: Trajectories of posttraumatic stress symptomatology in older persons affected by a large-magnitude disaster. J Psychiatr Res. 2013; 47(4): 520-526.

Kroenke K, Spitzer RL, Williams JB, et al.: An ultra-brief screening scale for anxiety and depression: The PHQ-4. Psychosomatics. 2009; 50(6): 613-621.

Anastario MP, Larrance R, Lawry L: Using mental health indicators to identify postdisaster gender-based violence among women displaced by Hurricane Katrina. J Womens Health (Larchmt). 2008; 17(9): 1437-1444.

McDonald SD, Calhoun PS: The diagnostic accuracy of the PTSD checklist: a critical review. Clin Psychol Rev. 2010; 30(8): 976-987.

Kessler RC, Chiu WT, Demler O, et al.: Prevalence, severity, and comorbidity of 12-month DSM-IV disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2005; 62(6): 617-627.

National Institute of Mental Health: Depression. Available at Accessed July 14, 2015.

Gwynn RC, McQuistion HL, McVeigh KH, et al.: Prevalence, diagnosis, and treatment of depression and generalized anxiety disorder in a diverse urban community. Psychiatr Serv. 2008; 59(6): 641-647.

Galea S, Tracy M, Norris F, et al.: Financial and social circumstances and the incidence and course of PTSD in Mississippi during the first two years after Hurricane Katrina. J Trauma Stress. 2008; 21(4): 357-368.

Norris FH, Friedman MJ, Watson PJ, et al.: 60,000 disaster victims speak: Part I. An empirical review of the empirical literature, 1981-2001. Psychiatry. 2002; 65(3): 207-239.

Davidson TM, Price M, McCauley JL, et al.: Disaster impact across cultural groups: Comparison of Whites, African Americans, and Latinos. Am J Community Psychol. 2013; 52(1-2): 97-105.

Rhodes J, Chan C, Paxson C, et al.: The impact of hurricane Katrina on the mental and physical health of low-income parents in New Orleans. Am J Orthopsychiatry. 2010; 80(2): 237-247.



How to Cite

Schwartz, PhD, R. M., C. Sison, PhD, S. M. Kerath, MS, L. Murphy, BA, T. Breil, MA, D. Sikavi, and E. Taioli, MD, PhD. “The Impact of Hurricane Sandy on the Mental Health of New York Area Residents”. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, vol. 10, no. 4, Oct. 2015, pp. 339-46, doi:10.5055/ajdm.2015.0216.