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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Texas A&M: Researchers Study Physical and Mental Health in Vulnerable Communities Following Hurricane Harvey

A new study published in BMC Public Health investigates the physical and mental health of residents in some of Houston’s environmental justice communities following Hurricane Harvey in 2017. The study led by Dr. Garett Sansom, of the Texas A&M School of Public Health, used information from a survey conducted after a community meeting organized by a Houston-based emergency management and public safety non-profit two months after Harvey. The focus of the survey was the environmental concerns and the self-reported physical and mental health of Houston residents after the storm.

The survey given to meeting participants focused on demographic factors like age, gender, race, residence location and length of time living in that area; assessed respondent perceptions on various environmental risks like air pollution and flooding near industrial facilities, housing conditions and access to public transportation; and used a well-established assessment tool to measure self-reported physical and mental health.

The physical and mental health scores of the respondents were somewhat unexpected though with the self-reported mental health scores higher than the national average in the U.S. for both men and women. In contrast, the physical health scores were significantly lower than average. Further analysis found no connection between physical health and the length of time respondents lived in their neighborhoods, but residents who had lived in their neighborhoods longer reported better mental health. These differences stand in contrast to previous research on similar populations using the same assessment that found physical and mental health were roughly correlated.

The differences between physical and mental health and correlation between residence duration and mental health point to possible benefits of promoting engagement within communities.

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