Shelter-in-place and mental health: An analogue study of well-being and distress


  • Stephanie F. Dailey, EdD
  • David Kaplan, PhD



shelter-in-place, mental health, disaster simulation, contamination disasters


Based on the disaster mental health literature and research on quarantine, confinement, social distancing, and isolation, considerable evidence exists which supports the idea that individuals who shelter-in-place (SIP) may experience adverse emotional and/or mental-health responses.

Objective: This study investigated the impact of a long-term (48-hour) SIP simulation on mental health during a “dirty bomb” detonation.

Design/participants: Participants (n = 73) completed the Mental Health Inventory (MHI; Veit and Ware, 1983) and a self-report questionnaire on current functioning.

Results: Sheltering-in-place did not have adverse effects on mental health although supplemental analysis indicated that groups that are cohesive have an easier time. Qualitative observations also provided a significant amount of information regarding group dynamics, attrition, and cognitive functioning.

Conclusions: The results of this study provide evidence to emergency management professionals that SIP is viable disaster response strategy that does not adversely impact mental health provided group cohesion is high. The findings also have implications regarding public messaging and outreach initiatives regarding the emotional and physical safety of SIP.

Author Biographies

Stephanie F. Dailey, EdD

Assistant Professor, Counseling Department, Argosy University, Washington, DC.

David Kaplan, PhD

Chief Professional Officer, American Counseling Association, Alexandria, Virginia.


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How to Cite

Dailey, EdD, S. F., and D. Kaplan, PhD. “Shelter-in-Place and Mental Health: An Analogue Study of Well-Being and Distress”. Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 12, no. 2, Mar. 2014, pp. 121-3, doi:10.5055/jem.2014.0166.