Psychological consequences of indirect exposure to disaster due to the haiti earthquake

James M. Shultz, Avi Besser, Fiona Kelly, Andrea Allen, Susan Schmitz, Vicky Hausmann, Louis Herns Marcelin, Yuval Neria

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Introduction Few studies have focused on the mental health consequences of indirect exposure to disasters caused by naturally occurring hazards. The present study assessed indirect exposure to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti among Haitian-Americans now living in Miami; these subjects had no direct exposure to the earthquake, but retained their cultural identity, language, and connection to family and friends in Haiti. Methods Two months following the earthquake a sample of Haitian-Americans was surveyed inquiring about: (1) their psychological reactions to the quake; (2) types of exposures experienced by their family members and friends in Haiti; and (3) symptom levels of (a) major depression, (b) generalized anxiety disorder, (c) complicated grief, (d) mental health status, and (e) physical health status. Results Haitian-Americans living in Miami experienced a broad spectrum of indirect exposures to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. These exposures were strongly associated with psychological distress, trauma-related mental health consequences, and diminished health status. Most notable was the multiplicity of indirect exposures to the on-scene experiences of multiple family members and friends in Haiti. Conclusions Consideration should be given to the psychological impact and needs for support among indirectly-exposed populations with strong affiliation to directly-impacted victims.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)359-368
Number of pages10
JournalPrehospital and Disaster Medicine
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2012


  • bereavement
  • disaster
  • earthquake
  • evidence base
  • exposure
  • mental health
  • psychosocial
  • trauma assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Emergency Medicine
  • Emergency


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