To determine stress levels among a workforce 6 months after hurricane Katrina made landfall, a web-based survey that included the four-item Perceived Stress Scale was administered to employees of the largest employer in New Orleans. An overall Perceived Stress Scale score was obtained by pooling responses for the four items. Among 1,542 adult respondents, 24.1% stated they felt that they were “fairly often” or “very often” unable to control the important things in their life and 21.4% considered that their difficulties were “fairly often” or “very often” piling up so high that they could not overcome them. Also, 6.1% reported that they “almost never” or “never” felt confident about their ability to handle their personal problems and 15.2% indicated that things were “almost never” or “never” going their way. The overall mean Perceived Stress Scale score was 6.3 (standard deviation = 3.1; range = 0–16). Higher stress scale scores, indicating more stress, were present for women, and for participants with lower income, displaced longer than 3 months, who were more afraid of losing their life during hurricane Katrina and its immediate aftermath, and who knew someone that died during the storm. Additionally, participants who were living in a relative of friend’s house or in a temporary trailer at the time of the survey had higher stress scores compared to their counterparts who had returned to live in their pre-hurricane residence. There was a direct association between higher stress scores and symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Employers and health care providers should be apprised of the need for monitoring stress and offering counseling opportunities for returning workforces following future large-scale disasters.
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