Repeated exposure to major disasters does not make people mentally stronger, a recent study from the Texas A&M University School of Public Health found: individuals who have been repeatedly exposed to major disasters show a reduction in mental health scores.
Additionally, the research team found that the more experience the individuals had with such events, the lower their mental health was.
“We discovered the reverse of the adage ‘what does not kill you makes you stronger,’” said the study’s lead author Garett Sansom, research assistant professor in the Department of Environmental & Occupational Health at the School of Public Health.
Sansom and a team of Texas A&M researchers studied individuals from the Houston area, which is susceptible to hurricanes and flooding as well as industrial emergencies. The results of the study were published recently in the journal Natural Hazards.
From 2000 to 2020, Texas — one of the states most prone to natural disasters — experienced 33 Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) declared major disasters. Many of these — hurricanes, winter weather, drought and flooding — impacted the Houston area. The area has also been impacted by emergencies such as explosions and chemical releases at nearby industrial facilities.
According to the research team, the combination of natural disasters and emergencies from industrial facilities presents a unique opportunity to observe the impacts.