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

Ethan Raker


Introduction: Fueled by the escalation of climate change, weather-related disasters are increasing in frequency and severity. Existing research has documented the extensive harm induced by such disasters, yet few studies have examined how individuals’ psychological well-being fares when exposed to multiple, diverse threats, including other weather-related and public health disasters (e.g., COVID-19). As such, the present study explores posttraumatic and psychological distress in the context of unique and cumulative disaster exposure.Methods: The data utilized for this study came from the Resilience in Survivors of Katrina (RISK) Project. The sample was comprised of 381 predominantly Non-Hispanic Black (84.5%) women who experienced varied levels of exposure to Hurricanes Katrina, Laura, and Sally, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. Multiple linear regression models explored associations between unique and cumulative disaster exposures and three outcomes: Katrina-related posttraumatic stress (PTS), pandemic-related PTS, and psychological distress (PD), controlling for socio-demographic factors and pre-event mental health. Results: The unique disaster model revealed experiencing more stressors related to Hurricane Katrina was significantly associated with higher pandemic-related PTS and PD, Hurricane Sally with higher PD, and the COVID-19 pandemic with higher pandemic- and Katrina-related PTS and PD. The cumulative disaster model found significant positive associations between experiencing “high” exposure to one disaster and PD, as well as two and three or more disasters with all three mental health outcomes, relative to experiencing no “high” exposures. Conclusion: These results reveal novel findings about the relationship between unique and cumulative disaster exposure and adverse mental health outcomes and provide insight into future investment in resource allocation efforts and post-disaster initiatives.


This is an Open Access Thesis.

Open Access

This Article is Open Access

Included in

Public Health Commons