Resilience after natural disasters: the process of harnessing resources in communities differentially exposed to a flood

European Journal of Psychotraumatology

Helena Bakic & Dean Ajdukovic

https://doi.org/10.1080/20008198.2021.1891733

Abstract

Background: Disasters negatively impact mental health and well-being. Studying how people adapt and recover after adversity is crucial for disaster preparedness and response.

Objective: This study examined how differentially affected communities harness their resources to adapt to the aftermath of a flood. We predicted that stronger individual, interpersonal, and community resources protect against psychosocial resource loss and, through that, are related to fewer symptoms of posttraumatic stress and depression and higher life satisfaction. We also predicted that these effects would be stronger in a flooded community, compared to a threatened, but non-flooded community.

Method: Participants were randomly sampled community members from two neighbouring municipalities. One municipality was severely flooded during the 2014 floods in South East Europe (affected community, na = 223), the other was threatened but not flooded (comparison community, nc = 224). Interviews were conducted one and a half years after the disaster using the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale 10-item version, the Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support, the Community Resources Scale, the Psychosocial Resource Loss Scale, the PTSD Checklist for DSM-5, the Center for Epidemiological Studies Depression Scale Revised and the Satisfaction with Life Scale.

Results: Stronger individual, interpersonal, and community resources were found to be related to better post-disaster outcomes directly and indirectly through psychosocial resource loss. In the affected community, interpersonal resources and community social capital and engagement were stronger predictors of positive adaptation. In the comparison community, community economic development and trust in community leadership were more important.

Conclusion: This study provides evidence that people affected by disasters can harness their individual, interpersonal, and community resources to recover and adapt. Post-disaster interventions should aim to strengthen family and community ties, thus increasing available social support and community connectedness.

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