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Mental Health Service Need and Use in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy: Findings in a Population-Based Sample of New York City Residents


The majority of disaster survivors suffering from psychiatric disorders do not utilize mental health services. Only one study to date has explored postdisaster service use after Hurricane Sandy, and the disaster literature is further limited by a lack of attention to survivors’ perceived need for services. We drew on data from a population-based sample of adults living in New York City neighborhoods that were most severely affected by Hurricane Sandy (N = 454). Less than 10 % of participants reported service needs (7.8 %) and service use (4.4 %) since the hurricane, 5.9 % were classified as having unmet needs (i.e., needs without use), and 2.5 % as using services without needs. Predictors of unmet mental health service needs included younger age, male gender, higher education, and exposure to more disaster-related stressors. The results suggest that efforts to reduce unmet postdisaster service needs could focus on reaching survivors with these characteristics.

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This study was funded by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response of the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HITEP130003-01-00), the National Institute of Mental Health (T32 MH013043), and the German Research Foundation (DFG, GR 4302/1-1). The funders had no involvement in the design, data collection, analysis and interpretation, manuscript preparation, or the decision to submit the manuscript for publication.

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Correspondence to Sarah R. Lowe.

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The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human and Animal Rights

This article does not contain any studies with animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed Consent

Participants in the study provided oral informed consent. Oral informed consent was employed instead of written informed consent because all interviews were conducted over the telephone. Interviewers documented participants’ informed consent in the study database. This approach to obtaining informed consent, as well as all other study procedures, was approved by the institutional review board of Columbia University.

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Lowe, S.R., Sampson, L., Gruebner, O. et al. Mental Health Service Need and Use in the Aftermath of Hurricane Sandy: Findings in a Population-Based Sample of New York City Residents. Community Ment Health J 52, 25–31 (2016).

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  • Mental health needs
  • Mental health service utilization
  • Natural disasters
  • Hurricane Sandy
  • Posttraumatic stress