Arkin, M., Lowe, S. R., Poon, C. Y. S., & Rhodes, J. E. (2022). Associations between religious coping and long-term mental health in survivors of Hurricane Katrina. Psychology of Religion and Spirituality. https://doi.org/10.1037/rel0000483
Summarized by Ariel Ervin
Notes of Interest:
- Weather-related disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes, increase the risk of developing adverse mental health outcomes. Underrepresented groups are especially at risk of being affected.
- Many people who experience hardships turn to religion in order to cope.
- This study used data from an ongoing, longitudinal study called the Resilience in Survivors of Katrina Project (RISK), which centered on low-income females who are primarily Black survivors of Hurricane Katrina (HK).
- It utilized four data waves from 2005 to 2018 to assess the relationship between religious coping and mental health outcomes.
- Positive religious coping (PRC) 4 years after HK correlated with post-traumatic growth, PTG, 12 years after HK, when pre-disaster psychological distress is controlled for.
- Negative religious coping (NRC) 4 years after HK correlated with post-traumatic stress (PTS) 12 years after HK.
- Assessing an individual’s relationship to spirituality and religion in formal mental health settings can help clinicians evaluate how much religious coping is a source of vulnerability and strength.
- It’s important to remember that the directionality between NRC and PTS is unknown.
- Faith leaders can help by raising awareness about the differences between PRC and NRC and their respective mental health implications. This information can also help them evaluate various approaches to promote healing.
Introduction (Reprinted from the Abstract)
Weather-related disasters are increasing in both frequency and severity, which in turn increases the likelihood for the development of adverse mental health outcomes (Augustinavicius et al., 2021; CRED & UNDRR, 2015; NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information, 2020). Religion and spirituality are an accessible form of coping that many people turn to during and after weather-related disasters and may be especially valuable to survivors who face barriers to accessing mental health treatment or may not feel served by formal mental health institutions (Abu-Raiya & Pargament, 2015; Bryant-Davis & Wong, 2013). Researchers have drawn distinctions between positive religious coping (PRC) and negative religious coping (NRC), both conceptually and in their relation to mental health outcomes (Pargament et al., 2011). This study utilized data from the Resilience in Survivors of Katrina project, an ongoing longitudinal study of low-income, female, primarily Black Hurricane Katrina survivors, and drew on four waves of data from before the hurricane in 2005 through 2018 to explore the longitudinal relationship between religious coping and mental health outcomes. Multiple linear regression analyses revealed that NRC was a significant predictor of posttraumatic stress, b = .14, p < .05, whereas PRC was a significant predictor of posttraumatic growth, b = .22, p < .01. Future research should further examine associations between religious coping styles and later well-being as well as strategies for beneficial outcomes.
Implications (Reprinted from the Discussion)
The current investigation drew on a longitudinal data set of low-income, female, primarily Black women who survived HK to investigate the associations between postdisaster religious coping strategies 4 years post-Katrina and mental health outcomes 12 years post-Katrina. Controlling for predisaster psychological distress, PRC 4 years post-Katrina was associated with PTG 12 years post-Katrina. Likewise, controlling for predisaster psychological distress, NRC 4 years post-Katrina was associated with PTS 12 years post-Katrina.
The association between PRC and PTG is in line with previous research, which has found that PRC is typically associated with PTG in various contexts of trauma (García et al., 2017; Gerber et al., 2011; Kucharska, 2020; Prati & Pietrantoni, 2009; Schaefer et al., 2008; Shaw et al., 2005). This is also consistent with findings from Chan and Rhodes (2013), which found a positive association between PRC and PTG in a cross-sectional measurement 4 years after HK. Findings from the present study indicate that this relationship is maintained 8 years later, such that PRC 4 years post-Katrina is associated with PTG 12 years post-Katrina.
Chan and Rhodes (2013) also found positive, concurrent associations between NRC and GPD, but did not find associations between NRC and PTS. In contrast, the current longitudinal study found positive associations between NRC and PTS, but not GPD. Reasons for this change from the previous study to the current investigation may be due to methodological differences: the 2013 study utilized a measurement model and structural regression model whereas the present study relied on hierarchical linear regressions. Additionally, the RISK sample may have changed over time due to some participants being lost to follow-up.
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