Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Sarah Lowe

Second Advisor

Trace Kershaw


Introduction: The effects of disasters are widespread and heavily studied. While attention to disasters’ impacts on mental health is growing, knowledge about these effects is fragmented due to the wide variety of assessment tools used in post-disaster settings. The purpose of this study is to review mental health assessment tools and their use in populations affected by disasters.

Methods: A systematic search was conducted in PubMed, PsycINFO, and Google Scholar for commonly-used tools that assess PTSD, anxiety, depression, substance use disorder, and general mental health in disaster settings. Next, a search for scientific studies that used the selected tools in disaster-affected populations was conducted to collect the data for analysis. Data were extracted on study outcomes produced from these tools as well as study characteristics and then analyzed to compare across tools within each symptom assessed.

Findings: Ten assessment tools for analysis were identified. Seventy-eight studies using these tools were collected. Most of the tools did not have a suggested cutoff score for determining probable diagnosis. Most of the studies identified were conducted in Asia and used the Impact of Events Scale - Revised (IES-R). The outcomes, including prevalence, sample size, sample type, disaster type, and continent did not significantly vary across all of the tools, with the exception of PTSD tools, which were significantly more likely to be used in studies with non-representative samples. Studies in North America disproportionately used the IES-R to study hurricanes.

Conclusion: Although the studies show similar results across tools, the variety of tools and cutoff scores still prevent adequate synthesis of the mental health effects of disasters. It is recommended that researchers and humanitarian workers consider the context of the tool that they plan to use and use a tool with a specified cutoff that has been successfully used in similar settings.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access