247281 Positive affect and post-disaster outcomes: Is a good attitude beneficial?

Monday, October 31, 2011

Tasha Stehling-Ariza, MPH , National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia University, New York, NY
Akilah Banister, MPH , National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, New York, NY
Amanda Gomez, MPH , National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia Univeristy, New York, NY
Jennifer O'Connell , National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia University, New York, NY
Purpose: This analysis assesses the potential beneficial effects of a positive attitude on mental and physical health and recovery following Hurricane Katrina.

Description: Several studies have suggested that positive affect is linked to mental and physical health benefits. Using verbal testimonies and written accounts of life events, researchers have examined the association of positive affect with outcomes including longer life expectancy and depression. Less understood is the role positive affect plays in mental health and recovery after a disaster. In 2007, the National Center for Disaster Preparedness conducted a pilot study investigating the effectiveness of oral histories in facilitating displaced and disengaged individuals in re-establishing positive social roles through the story-telling process. Oral history interviews were video recorded for 47 individuals displaced or heavily impacted by Hurricane Katrina; videos were scored on a scale of 1-10 on hopefulness, calmness, happiness, pleasantness, and animation. Mental health, physical health and recovery were assessed one and two years after the oral history interviews. Despite the limitations of the small sample size, preliminary findings suggest animation and hopefulness may be associated with positive outcomes two years after the storm. Further research is warranted.

Learning Areas:
Social and behavioral sciences

Learning Objectives:
Describe the association between positive affect and mental health, physical health and recovery in a post-disaster population.

Keywords: Disasters, Mental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: Developed and conducted the analysis
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.