Looking for the Silver Lining: Benefit Finding After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Middle-Aged, Older, and Oldest-Old Adults

Abstract

Looking for potentially positive outcomes is one way that people cope with stressful events. In two studies, we examined perceived “silver linings” after the 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita among indirectly affected adults. In Study 1, middle-aged (ages 47–64 years), older (ages 65–89 years), and oldest-old (ages 90–95 years) adults in the Louisiana Healthy Aging Study (LHAS) responded to an open-ended question on perceived silver linings in a longitudinal assessment carried out during the immediate impact (1 to 4 months after landfall) and post-disaster recovery phase (6 to 14 months post-storm). Qualitative grounded theory methods were employed to analyze these narrative data. Team-based coding yielded three core themes: (1) learning experience and better preparedness for future disasters, (2) having improved cities (Baton Rouge and New Orleans), and (3) an increase in “Good Samaritan” acts such as strangers helping one another. Responses were similar across age groups, although older adults were the least likely to report positive outcomes. Study 2 was a conceptual replication using a different sample of adults (ages 31 to 82 years) tested at least 5 years after the storms. A learning experience and preparedness core theme replicated Study 1’s findings while improved social cohesion amongst family and friends emerged as a new core theme in Study 2. These data indicate that identifying lessons learned and potentially positive outcomes are psychological reactions that may facilitate post-disaster coping and foster resilience for indirectly affected adults in the years after disaster.

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Acknowledgments

Jennifer Silva Brown is now at Drury University. Patricia F. Gendusa is now at Oshner Hospital. L. Joseph Su is now at the Food and Drug Administration. Study 1 was supported by grants from the Louisiana Board of Regents through the Millennium Trust Health Excellence Fund [HEF(2001–06)-02] and the National Institute on Aging P01 AG022064. Study 2 was supported by a grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents. This support is gratefully acknowledged. We also thank an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on an earlier draft of this article.

Funding

Study 1 was supported by grants from the Louisiana Board of Regents through the Millennium Trust Health Excellence Fund [HEF(2001–06)-02] and the National Institute on Aging P01 AG022064. Study 2 was supported by a grant from the Louisiana Board of Regents. This support is gratefully acknowledged. All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Correspondence to Katie E. Stanko.

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*Meghan B. Allen, BS; Gloria Anderson, BS; Iina E. Antikainen, BS; Arturo M. Arce, MD; Jennifer Arceneaux, RN; Mark A. Batzer, PhD; Emily O. Boudreaux, MA; Lauri Byerley, PhD; Catherine M. Champagne PhD, RD; Katie E. Cherry, PhD; Liliana Cosenza, BS; M. Elaine Cress, PhD-Consultant; Jenny Y. Denver, MS; Andy Deutsch, PhD; Devon A. Dobrosielski, MS; Rebecca Ellis, PhD; Marla J. Erwin, MA; Mark Erwin, MA; Jennifer Fabre, MPT; Elizabeth T. Fontham, PhD; Madlyn Frisard, PhD; Paula Geiselman, PhD; Lindsey Goodwin, BS; Tiffany Hall; Scott W. Herke, PhD; Jennifer Hayden, MS; Kristi Hebert, BS; Fernanda Holton, MA; Hui-Chen Hsu, PhD; S. Michal Jazwinski, PhD; Sangkyu Kim, PhD; Beth G. Kimball, BS; Christina King-Rowley, MS; Kim Landry; Carl Lavie, MD-Consultant; Daniel LaVie, BS; Matthew Leblanc; Christina M. Lefante, MPH; Li Li, MD; Hui-Yi Lin, PhD, MSPH; Kay Lopez, DSN; John D. Mountz, MD PhD; Jennifer Owens, BA; Kim B. Pedersen, PhD; Andrew Pellett, PhD; Eric Ravussin, PhD; Paul Remedios; Yolanda Robertson, NP; Jennifer Rood, PhD; Henry Rothschild, MD, PhD; Ryan A. Russell, BS; Erin Sandifer, BS; Beth Schmidt, MS; Robert Schwartz, MD – Consultant; Donald K. Scott, PhD; Mandy Shipp, RD; Jennifer L. Silva, MA; L. Joseph Su, PhD MPH; Jessica Thomson, PhD; Valerie Toups, LPN; Crystal Traylor, APRN, MSN, WHNP; Cruz Velasco-Gonzalez, PhD; Julia Volaufova, PhD; Celeste Waguespack, BSN, RN; Jerilyn A. Walker, MS; David A. Welsh, MD; Michael A. Welsch, PhD; Robert H. Wood, PhD; Sarah Zehr, PhD; Pili Zhang, PhD. (Louisiana State University, Baton Rouge; Pennington Biomedical Research Center, Baton Rouge; Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center, New Orleans; Tulane University, New Orleans; University of Alabama, Birmingham).

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Stanko, K.E., Cherry, K.E., Ryker, K.S. et al. Looking for the Silver Lining: Benefit Finding After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Middle-Aged, Older, and Oldest-Old Adults. Curr Psychol 34, 564–575 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s12144-015-9366-2

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Keywords

  • Natural disasters
  • Hurricane effects
  • Post-disaster coping
  • Benefit-finding
  • Oldest-old
  • Louisiana Healthy Aging Study