Institute Researchers Publish Article on Post Trauma Recovery Trajectories among Hurricane Survivors

Community ravaged by a hurricane


by Dr. Heather Littleton


Institute researchers, Drs. Heather Littleton, Bernard Ricca, and Charles Benight, along with Dr. Ashley Allen at the University of North Carolina Pembroke, recently published an article in the Journal of Traumatic Stress on post-trauma recovery trajectories among rural Hurricane Florence survivors.

The paper came from a National Science Foundation-funded longitudinal study of Hurricane Florence survivors residing in the rural Sandhills region of North Carolina. The paper uses daily data from survivors about how they are coping with the hurricane that was collected using an app on their phones.

The findings showed that survivors fluctuated in how they were coping day-to-day, even though it had been at least five months since the hurricane when they completed the daily surveys. In addition, these fluctuations in adjustment fell into several patterns, with the most common being one where survivors generally were doing well day-to-day but had some days when they shifted to states marked by poorer coping, although they usually quickly shifted back to a healthier adjustment state.

However, the second most common pattern was one where survivors were more likely to be in adjustment states marked by poorer coping and distress, as well as less frequent shifts to healthier adjustment states. It appears as if the majority of hurricane survivors are able to maintain positive psychological adjustment, even when faced with ongoing challenges from the hurricane, including finding safe housing, coping with ongoing health issues, and recovering from significant financial setbacks.

However, a small group of survivors appeared to be struggling with their adjustment. Future work could focus on using this day-to-day adjustment data to deliver immediate help to survivors who are struggling.


Tags: Newsletter April 2023