184091 Community-wide disaster alert: Psychological consequences of living a slow-motion technological disaster

Monday, October 27, 2008

Heather Orom, PhD , Karmanos Cancer Institute, Detroit, MI
Rebecca J. W. Cline, PhD , Communication and Behavioral Oncology Program, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Detroit, MI
Aylin Sayir, MA , Karmanos Cancer Institute, Detroit, MI
Tanis Hernandez, MSW , Center for Asbestos Related Disease, Libby, MT
S. Camille Broadway, PhD , Department of Communication, University of Texas at Arlington, Arlington, TX
Kami J. Silk, PhD , Department of Communication, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
Ann G. Schwartz, PhD, MPH , Population Sciences, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Detroit, MI
Background: Widespread exposure to amphibole asbestos in Libby, Montana created what EPA has called the worst environmental disaster in U.S. history (more than 280 deaths; hundreds of asbestos-related disease (ARD) cases; given ARD's lengthy latency period, thousands remain at risk).Significance: Most previous disaster research addresses psychological consequences of rapid-onset natural disasters; we know little about the psychological impact of slow-motion technological (involving human culpability) disasters. Psychological consequences of slow-motion technological disasters may be relatively more severe than natural disasters as affected communities experience disaster-related conflict, fail to develop a common victim identity, and often fail to provide social support to those affected by the disaster. Methods: A population-based survey was mailed to randomly-selected households (n=1200) and ARD patients (n=100)in Libby. Variables included: psychological distress (anxiety, depression, stress, worry) and factors expected to influence distress including personal impact of the disaster (e.g., ARD experience, ARD risk/severity perceptions, disaster-related resource losses (e.g., own/family health, health care, self-esteem, financial burden/constraint)), personal resources (optimism, resilience, perceived control), and social resources (family environment, social support). Results: Psychological distress varied as a function of personal experience with the disaster and resource losses. Distress was mitigated by personal and social resources. Conclusion: Even several years into coping with the disaster, victims of a slow-motion technological disaster experience psychological challenges. The experiences of Libby residents can inform the public health community about the psychological needs of people living in communities affected by slow-motion technological disasters and suggest avenues for intervention to prevent and, or address such needs.

Learning Objectives:
1.Describe stressors associated with slow-motion technological disasters. 2.Understand the level of psychological distress experienced by people living in a community affected by a slow-motion technological disaster. 3.Identify factors that predict psychological distress in residents of a community affected by a slow-motion technological disaster.

Keywords: Disasters, Psychological Indicators

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Orom, H., Cline, R. J. W., Berry-Bobovski, L., Hernandez, T., Black, B., Schwartz, A. G., & Ruckdeschel, J. C. (2007, November). I'm watching each one of my family members die: Public health functions of families and family dynamics in a slow-motion technological disaster. Paper presented at the 135th annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, Washington, DC. Cline, R. J. W., Berry-Bobovski, L., Orom, H., Sayir, A. D., Coleman, D. K., Francis, C., Hernandez, T., Black, B., Schwartz, A., & Ruckdeschel, J. C. (2007, November). Youd think she had AIDS: Stigmatizing responses to asbestos-related disease as a barrier to health behavior. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the American Public Health Association, Washington, DC.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.