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Measuring Individual Disaster Recovery: A Socioecological Framework

  • David M. Abramson, Tasha Stehling-Ariza, Yoon Soo Park, Lauren Walsh and Derrin Culp...

Background: Disaster recovery is a complex phenomenon. Too often, recovery is measured in singular fashion, such as quantifying rebuilt infrastructure or lifelines, without taking in to account the affected population's individual and community recovery. A comprehensive framework is needed that encompasses a much broader and far-reaching construct with multiple underlying dimensions and numerous causal pathways; without the consideration of a comprehensive framework that investigates relationships between these factors, an accurate measurement of recovery may not be valid. This study proposes a model that encapsulates these ideas into a single framework, the Socio-Ecological Model of Recovery.

Methods: Using confirmatory factor analysis, an operational measure of recovery was developed and validated using the five measures of housing stability, economic stability, physical health, mental health, and social role adaptation. The data were drawn from a sample of displaced households following Hurricane Katrina. Measures of psychological strength, risk, disaster exposure, neighborhood contextual effects, and formal and informal help were modeled to examine their direct and indirect effects on recovery using a structural equation model.

Findings: All five elements of the recovery measure were positively correlated with a latent measure of recovery, although mental health and social role adaptation displayed the strongest associations. An individual's psychological strength had the greatest association with positive recovery, followed by having a household income greater than $20 000 and having informal social support. Those factors most strongly associated with an absence of recovery included the time displaced since the hurricane, being disabled, and living in a community with substantial social disorder.

Discussion: The socio-ecological framework provides a robust means for measuring recovery, and for testing those factors associated with the presence or absence of recovery.

(Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2010;4:S46-S54)

Corresponding author
Correspondence: Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr David Abramson, National Center for Disaster Preparedness, Columbia University, 215 W 125th St, Suite 303, New York, NY 10027 (e-mail:
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Disaster Medicine and Public Health Preparedness
  • ISSN: 1935-7893
  • EISSN: 1938-744X
  • URL: /core/journals/disaster-medicine-and-public-health-preparedness
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