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Hurricane Katrina's Psychological Impact on Displaced Students


Updated August 31, 2010

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

No one would argue that the effect of Hurricane Katrina has not been great. Hurricane Katrina hit the state of Louisiana on August 29, 2005, and since then, a number of people and communities have felt its impact, and the negative effect of Hurricane Katrina continues to be felt today. In fact, Hurricane Katrina was one of the largest natural disasters ever experienced in the United States. Almost 2,000 lives were lost and there were billions of dollars in damage.

Although New Orleans, Louisiana, was not directly hit by the hurricane, the failure of levees to hold back massive amounts of water delivered by the storm resulted in tremendous damage throughout the city. To this day, many people have not returned to the city and recovery efforts continue.

The Displacement of Students

When Hurricane Katrina hit, many college students in New Orleans were just starting their fall semesters. Many students were evacuated from local colleges, such as Tulane University, Loyola, and the University of New Orleans. Some of these students were able to resume their studies at other colleges nearby that were less affected by the storm. Researchers at Louisiana State University, the University of Houston, and Virginia Tech looked at the psychological impact of Hurricane Katrina on these displaced students 3 months after Hurricane Katrina.

The Psychological Impact of Hurricane Katrina and Displacement

The researchers asked 68 displaced students at Louisiana State University about their symptoms of PTSD, depression, anxiety, and stress. They found that many were experiencing PTSD symptoms, as well as high levels of depression, anxiety, and stress. In addition, their symptoms of PTSD and depression were higher than students at Louisiana State University who were not displaced. The displaced students also had experienced more traumatic exposure than non-displaced students.

Coping with the Effects of a Natural Disaster

As this study shows, natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina can have a major impact on a person's psychological health. If you are coping with the effects of a natural disaster, help is available. The National Center for PTSD provides a number of fact sheets on the effects of natural disasters and how to cope with them. You can also find treatment providers in your area through a number of web-based search engines listed in this article from About.com. Finally, if you are a victim of a natural disaster or live in an area where you may be at risk for encountering a natural disaster, it is important to become familiar with different ways of coping with the effect of a natural disaster.


Davis, T.E., Grills-Taquechel, A.E., & Ollendick, T.H. (2010). The psychological impact from Hurricane Katrina: Effects of displacement and trauma exposure on university students. Behavior Therapy, 41, 340-349.

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