COVID-19 results impacted more by economic and mental health stressors related to Hurricane Harvey

A study by Rice University, the University of Notre Dame, and the Environmental Defense Fund shows that the economic and mental health consequences of Hurricane Harvey and COVID-19 victims were cumulative. The results appear in Environmental research.

The finding comes from separate surveys of the impact of Harvey and COVID-19, led by Katherine Ensor, Noah G. Harding professor of statistics at Rice; Marie Lynn Miranda, director of the Children’s Environmental Health Initiative at Notre Dame and former provost of Rice; and Elena Craft, senior director for climate and health at the Environmental Defense Fund.

The study originated from the 2018 Texas Flood Registry (TFR), a first-of-its-kind registry to track the short- and long-term health and housing impacts of a hurricane through survey data. on line. When COVID-19 kicked in, researchers realized that tools that support TFR could be used to track the impact of the pandemic and assess whether multiple exposures amplify pre-existing damage.

We have already looked at how previous exposure to Hurricane Harvey and other flooding events affects economic and mental health outcomes. We know that past exposure to short-lived natural disasters like flooding can reduce resilience, but no study has ever looked at past exposure to flooding and how it affects disaster outcomes. longer term, unrelated to weather conditions, such as a pandemic. “

Rashida Callender, research associate at Rice and lead author of the project

The new study built on the technical infrastructure of the existing TFR to launch the National COVID-19 Registry in April 2020. Its goal is to track experiences during the pandemic, including health, behaviors and economic changes.

The analysis incorporates responses from approximately 3,000 participants who returned questionnaires to the TFR and COVID-19 registries.

“What stands out is a clear distinction between the impact of acute effects and secondary stressors,” Callender said.

The team concluded the following:

  • COVID-19 results were impacted more by economic and mental health stressors related to Hurricane Harvey than by flooding and acute damage to homes.
  • People who lost income during Harvey were four times more likely to lose income during COVID-19.
  • People who experienced Hurricane Harvey as a “severe impact event” were five times more likely to have severe anxiety during COVID-19 than those whose experience with Harvey was not a significant impact event .

But Callender pointed out that the sample group that returned the polls is not representative of the general population.

“In general, our study population is a predominantly non-Hispanic white female population, many of whom have a college degree or higher,” she said. “To us, this suggests that in the general population, the impacts could potentially be greater. We found that black and non-Hispanic Hispanic respondents were more than twice as likely to report having had difficulty paying rent or household bills. bills during the pandemic, consistent with other studies documenting the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19.”

The registers are hosted by the Kinder Institute Urban Data Platform (UDP). UDP is a secure computing platform and data repository hosting 282 datasets over the greater Houston area.

Ensor said support from the Kinder Institute made the study possible. “UDP is a tremendous resource for our community, and I’m proud to have played a leading role in its creation,” she said.

As climate change accelerates the frequency and intensity of natural disasters and COVID-19 becomes rampant, the question remains of how to handle the next disaster and who will be hit hardest.

Callender said tracking the long-term consequences of exposure to past disasters can underscore the importance of identifying people and communities at high risk when developing response efforts and intervention programs. .


Journal reference:

Callender, R. et al. (2022) Economic and Mental Health Impacts of Multiple Adverse Events: Hurricane Harvey, Other Floods, and the COVID-19 Pandemic. Environmental research.


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