Objectives/Scope

An individual's connection to their environment is evident in Southeastern Louisiana, as this area represents a major economic hub for the United States port, petroleum, and fishing industries. The location also exposes the population to both natural and technological disasters that impact life on many levels, with residents' behavioral health being particularly vulnerable. Areas situated along the Gulf Coast are repeatedly experiencing and recovering from disasters with efforts to improve both preparedness and response being much needed. Specifically we need to improve our understanding of behavioral health factors, both positive and negative, that influence disaster recovery. There is an increasing amount of literature on negative health risks following disaster exposure, however little is known about how connection to one's environment and resilience contribute to or protect against negative behavioral health effects.

Methods, Procedures, Process

To better understand how both risk and protective factors contributing to post disaster behavioral health effects, this study assessed the association among environmental quality of life, environmental concerns, resilience, disaster experiences, and mental health symptoms. A total of 859 residents that reported some impact from the Gulf Oil Spill and lived along the Louisiana Gulf Coast were sampled. Structural Equation Modeling techniques were used to test the association among factors predicting mental health.

Results, Observations, Conclusions

The overall model demonstrated acceptable fit and disaster experiences were predictive of both environmental quality of life and mental health. Environmental quality of life was predictive of resilience and environmental quality of life and resilience were predictive of mental health.

Novel/Additive Information

This study found that disaster experiences were an important contributor, not only to one's post disaster mental health, but also to one's perceived environmental quality of life. Importantly environmental quality of life contributed to resilience or the perceived ability to overcome challenges. These findings can assist with development of post disaster recovery community response efforts that build on underutilized strengths, such as resilience and enhanced environmental quality of life.

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