Three months after Harvey, Texans reporting new mental and physical health challenges

A new survey from Kaiser Family Foundation and Episcopal Health Foundation finds that three months after Hurricane Harvey, Texans impacted by the storm are still facing new mental and physical health challenges. The survey looked at residents from 24 Texas counties seriously impacted by the storm and evaluated both their post-hurricane health and the status of the property and income losses they suffered.

Overall, two-thirds of these residents reported property damage, employment disruption, or income loss due to Harvey. Within that group, forty-five percent report they are not getting the help they need. Of those with damaged homes, one in nine were still displaced three months after the storm hit. The survey also found that hurricane effects were unevenly distributed; African American and Hispanic individuals, residents with low-income, and residents in the “Golden Triangle” and coastal areas were most impacted.

From a health perspective, there were several interesting survey results:

  • One in six residents said they, or someone in their house, had a new or worsening health condition due to Harvey.
  • 59 percent of those with worse health conditions said they have put off getting medical care, have cut back on prescriptions, or have had difficulties getting mental health care since Harvey.
  • Of those who reported a worsened health condition, 38 percent reported worsened respiratory conditions, and 20 percent report mental health issues such as anxiety, depression, and stress.

  • 13 percent say they’re mental health has gotten worse since the storm (this goes up to 18 percent when looking only at those who suffered property or income loss)
  • 22 percent say they have a harder time controlling their temper, 7 percent have increased their alcohol use, and 6 percent have started a new medication in relationship to new mental health problems.

The survey also evaluated resident’s top priorities for relief which include getting financial help to those who need it, rebuilding destroyed homes, making temporary housing available, and cleaning up pollutants, trash, and debris. The CEOs of Kaiser Family Foundation and Episcopal Health Foundation say this survey is a tool to help those in need as well as a reminder that the recovery effort is far from over.

“We want government and other recovery funds to use this information to make good decisions about how to reach those most in need,” said Elena Marks, president and CEO of the Episcopal Health Foundation. “This survey gives an important voice to hard-hit communities that may have been forgotten, especially those with the greatest needs and fewest resources following the storm.”

“The conventional wisdom that Texans hit by Hurricane Harvey have recovered is wrong,” said Drew Altman, president and CEO of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “The people in the hardest-hit areas are telling us that they still face major hurdles before their lives return to normal.”