Physical and Mental Health Status of Hurricane Katrina Evacuees in Houston in 2005 and 2006


Objectives. Hurricane Katrina necessitated the evacuation of over 200,000 individuals into Houston. This study compared characteristics of three samples of evacuees with those of the U.S. population and examined how evacuees’ experiences have changed over time.

Methods. Sub-populations of evacuees in Houston were surveyed immediately following the hurricane, two months afterwards, and one year later. Demographic characteristics, socioeconomic status, physical and mental health status, and access to care of the most disadvantaged evacuees in Houston were analyzed.

Results. Predominantly, evacuees surveyed were Black, low-income, unemployed, and facing challenges accessing health care. Twenty-eight percent felt their health was worse than it was before Katrina. Almost 60% of evacuees reported nervousness, restlessness, worthlessness, hopelessness, and spells of terror or panic at least a few times a week.

Conclusions. The evacuees displaced by the storm experienced loss of full-time employment, income, and deteriorating health, as well as struggles accessing necessary physical and mental health care.