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Community Support as a Moderator of Postdisaster Mental Health Symptoms in Urban and Nonurban Communities

  • Jenny S. West (a1) (a2), Matthew Price (a1) (a3), Kirstin Stauffacher Gros (a1) (a3) and Kenneth J. Ruggiero (a1) (a3)



We examined the association between disaster exposure, community support, and mental health outcomes in urban and nonurban participants of Galveston and Chambers counties after Hurricane Ike. The moderating effect of community support was evaluated as a protective factor relative to postdisaster mental health.


A representative population-based sample of 157 urban and 714 nonurban adults were interviewed 12 to 17 months after the hurricane about their mental health functioning, disaster exposure, and perceptions of community support.


A series of multiple regressions demonstrated that disaster exposure was associated with mental health outcomes for both groups. The strength of the association varied across population samples.Community support moderated the association between interpersonal effects of the disaster and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression outcomes in nonurban participants and the association between property damage and PTSD in urban participants.


Community support played a larger role in reducing PTSD and depression symptoms associated with the interpersonal effects of a disaster in the nonurban sample only. Communities may play a more beneficial role in the recovery process in nonurban areas that have elevated levels of injury or death attributed to a disaster. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2013;0:1–9)


Corresponding author

Address correspondence and reprint requests to Kenneth J. Ruggiero, PhD, National Crime Victims Center, Medical University of South Carolina, 67 President St, Charleston, SC 29425 e-mail


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Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness
  • ISSN: 1935-7893
  • EISSN: 1938-744X
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