Objectives: Older adults exposed to natural disasters are at risk for negative psychological outcomes such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Neighborhood social capital can act as a resource that supports individual-level coping with stressors. This study explores the ability of perceived neighborhood collective efficacy, a form of social capital, to moderate the association between exposure to Hurricane Sandy and PTSD symptoms in older adults. Method: Data from 2205 older individuals aged 54–80 residing in New Jersey who self-reported exposure to Hurricane Sandy in October of 2012 were identified and extracted from the ORANJ BOWL™ research panel. Participants completed baseline assessments of demographic and individual-level characteristics in 2006–2008 and follow-up assessments about storm exposure, perceived neighborhood collective efficacy (social cohesion and social control), and PTSD symptoms 8–33 months following the storm. Zero-inflated Poisson regression models were tested to examine the association between exposure, neighborhood collective efficacy, and PTSD symptoms. Results: After accounting for known demographic and individual-level covariates, greater storm exposure was linked to higher levels of PTSD symptoms. Social cohesion, but not social control, was linked to lower reports of PTSD symptoms and moderated the association between exposure and PTSD. The impact of storm exposure on PTSD symptoms was less for individuals reporting higher levels of social cohesion. Conclusion: Mental health service providers and disaster preparedness and response teams should consider the larger social network of individuals served. Building social connections in older adults' neighborhoods that promote cohesion can reduce the negative psychological impact of a disaster.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Phychiatric Mental Health
- Geriatrics and Gerontology
- Psychiatry and Mental health