Katrina Victims: Fear Replaced by Relief, but Majority Still Scarred

by Lydia Saad

Two-thirds continue to experience anxiety

GALLUP NEWS SERVICE

PRINCETON, NJ -- While the rest of the country looked on with sadness, shock, and anger, the residents of the Gulf Coast who suffered Hurricane Katrina's fury experienced intense feelings of anxiety, including fear, devastation, depression, helplessness, and stress. In more recent days, these acute feelings have subsided, and many more victims are expressing relief along with a restored sense of normalcy in their lives. Still, a majority of survivors are experiencing negative reactions, including nearly a third who have strongly negative feelings -- even six weeks after the storm hit.

These are the findings of a special CNN/USA Today/Gallup survey of people who have applied to the American Red Cross for assistance as a result of Hurricane Katrina. The poll was conducted by telephone (landline and cell phone) Sept. 30-Oct. 9, and includes a random sample of 1,510 adult Katrina victims (from a Red Cross database of more than 463,000 people who applied to the Red Cross for aid).

Respondents were asked to describe, in their own words, the feelings they had in the initial days of the storm and its aftermath. Fear was the most common feeling, expressed by 22%. Many simply said they were "scared," while others said they were "scared to death." Still others gave specific reasons for being fearful.

  • "I got emphysema and asthma. When the power went out, I thought I was going to die. My neighbors brought a generator. I did not think I was going to live through it."

  • "Well, the kinds of emotions I felt were scary, because for me to have my first child in the hurricane that was to hit Louisiana the way it did, it was scary. Because I didn't know which items I would need … didn't know which items that a newborn baby would need."

  • "Very bad. My roof was flying away, the water was coming on the floor in my house, and we didn't have any lights, and I had 18 people in my house, and we were all very scared."

Some of the comments reinforce the finding (discussed in the related item by David Moore) that many residents did not evacuate before the storm because, for various reasons, they did not appreciate its potential severity.

  • "It didn't really hit me until the after effect of the canals, the levees busting. Once that happened, that's when we really had to deal with it; that's what scared us and let us know we really had to leave."

Other comments reveal the profound level of anxiety brought on by the separation of family members.

  • "Very anxious and not knowing what was going on in the parish and if the family members got out in time."

  • "Anxiety; being away from my children. My kids were in Houston and I was in Atlanta."

An analysis of the verbatim responses finds that two-thirds of Katrina survivors felt one or more deeply negative emotions in the initial days after the storm made landfall. In addition to being scared, this includes those who were "devastated," "shocked," "stressed," and "upset." Altogether, 67% of respondents named one or more emotions that Gallup classifies as "acutely negative."

Emotions in First Few Days:
Acutely Negative Responses (net 67%)

Scared/Afraid (net)

22%

Stressed/Overwhelmed/Distraught (net)

9

Devastated

7

Shock/Shocked

7

Upset

6

Depressed

5

Bad

4

Lost/Don't know where to turn

4

Anxious/Anxiety

3

Disbelief

3

Angry/Anger

2

Horrible

2

Feelings of loss (loved one/home)

2

Unbelievable

2

Crying

1

Helplessness

1

Terrible

1

(Table adds to more than 67% due to multiple responses.)

Thirty-seven percent reported having seemingly less severe negative emotions, including feeling nervous, uncertain, sad, and "emotional."

  • "I was very sad and depressed -- one day I had a roof over my head and the next day it was gone."

Emotions in First Few Days:
Negative Responses (net 37%)

Sad

9%

Worried

7

Uncertainty

6

Emotional/All kinds of emotions

4

Confused

3

Frustrated

3

Nervous

3

Hurt

2

Concerned

2

Surprised

1

Apprehension

1

(Table adds to more than 37% due to multiple responses.)

A relatively small number -- 5% -- report feeling one or more positive emotions in the first few days of Katrina and her aftermath.

  • "To be honest, relieved that my trailer was still here."

  • "We were feeling relief that we could get away from the coast. It took quite awhile, but we did get away. Then, we were doubly concerned for those who could not get away from the coast. Then, we got to Georgia, and we found a place to stay."

Emotions in First Few Days:
Positive Responses (net 5%)

Blessed (God was with me)

1%

Happy

1

Hopeful/Hope

1

Relieved/Relief

1

Thankful

1

Calm/Stable

1

Feeling better/back to normal

1

(Table adds to more than 5% due to multiple responses.)

Many Still Sad and Anxious, but Also Relieved

Responses are markedly different to a question asking survivors to describe their current emotions. Gallup asked, "Now thinking about your emotions in more recent days, what kinds of emotions are you feeling now?" The top category of responses is restoration: "feeling better," "all right," and "back to normal." The total share of the sample reporting positive feelings today is 42%.

While some respondents seem to be on the road to recovery, for others there is clearly a long way to go.

  • "A little bit better because we are getting a little bit of help, but it is still very difficult because we lost everything."

  • "A little better. But it's one thing after another. My children's father died. Seeing them grieving and all is very hard. So far I have been able to focus on my mom because she needed help for her healthcare."

  • "Adjusting to the way I have to live now. Other than that I am all right. I am adjusting day by day."

  • "Better; upbeat now. We've got power, we've got water, and we've got the leaks stopped in the roof. That's all temporary, of course."

  • "Thankful the Lord spared me."

  • "Very thankful that I have a house to come home to and my husband has his job. Some people weren't that fortunate."

Emotions in Recent Days
Positive Responses (net 42%)

Feeling better now/All right/Back to normal

24%

Relieved/Relief

8

Happy

4

Blessed (God was with me)

3

Hopeful/Hope

2

Thankful

2

Grateful

1

Calm/Stable

1

Lucky/Fortunate

1

(Table adds to more than 42% due to multiple responses.)

By contrast, the percentage naming one or more acutely negative feelings is only 31%. No single emotion dominates this category, but stress and depression lead the list.

Emotions in Recent Days
Acutely Negative Responses (net 31%)

Stressed/Stressed out

5%

Depressed

4

Lost/Don't know where to turn

3

Angry/Anger

2

Anxious/Anxiety

2

Devastated

2

Feelings of loss (loved one/home)

2

Overwhelmed

2

Upset

2

Bad

1

Crying

1

Disbelief

1

Disgusted

1

Fear

1

Helplessness

1

Scared/Afraid/Terrified

1

Shock/Shocked

1

Unbelievable

1

(Table adds to more than 31% due to multiple responses.)

Another 26% of respondents report feeling less severe negative emotions today, with the chief one being sadness.

  • "Sad for people who died and friends from New Orleans who died or lost everything."

  • "Sad, seeing all the trash. Depressing."

  • "Sadness for the people I have no idea where they are and the people I worked with."

Emotions in Recent Days
Negative Responses (net 26%)

Sad

8%

Emotional/All kinds of emotions

4

Frustrated

4

Confused

3

Uncertainty

3

Worried

2

Aggravated

1

Concerned

1

Nervous

1

Homesick

1

Hurt

1

(Table adds to more than 26% due to multiple responses.)

Separately, Gallup asked respondents to describe the extent to which they are currently experiencing specific post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, including having trouble sleeping, feelings of anxiety, and feelings of depression. About two in five respondents report having a significant level of difficulty with each of these issues (saying it happens a great deal or quite a lot) and nearly two-thirds are experiencing at least some difficulty.

Victims Turn to Faith and Family to Soothe Their Pain

Respondents primarily credit family (37%) and faith (27%) as the twin pillars of support that have seen them through this emotionally difficult period. Community members reaching out to help and friends are mentioned by 8% each. Just 4% cite FEMA, although this could be a reflection of the fact that FEMA's role in the relief effort is not specifically to provide emotional comfort.

What, if anything, has helped you to get through this difficult emotional time?

2005 Sep 30-Oct 9

%

Family

37

Faith/Spirituality/Belief in Jesus/God/Prayer/Worship

27

Community/Neighbors/Citizens reaching out to help

8

Friends

8

FEMA

4

Getting back to work/Having a job/coworkers

4

Talking with others/Peace of mind/Local support

4

Keeping busy/Getting back into the daily structure

3

Various organizations

2

Services/Help provided by church/church members

2

Other

21

Nothing

3

No opinion

1

TOTAL

124%

(table adds to more than 100% due to multiple responses)

Survey Methods

This poll was conducted in cooperation with the American Red Cross.

Results are based on telephone interviews with a sample of 1,510 adults, aged 18 and older, drawn randomly from the American Red Cross database of applicants seeking assistance due to the effects of Hurricane Katrina. Interviews were conducted Sept. 30-Oct. 9, 2005. Results based on the total sample have a margin of error of ±3 percentage points.

The vast majority of applicants provided a working contact telephone number to the Red Cross. Gallup did reverse phone lookups to obtain telephone numbers for the portion of the selected sample that did not provide a contact number. Where necessary, Gallup interviewers tracked down updated telephone numbers when respondents had moved from their previous locations. Interviews were conducted on both landline and cellular telephones. Full details on the poll methodology can be found at poll.gallup.com.

In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

1. Thinking about the day Hurricane Katrina hit and the first few days after that, can you please tell me the kinds of emotions you were feeling at that time? [OPEN-ENDED]

2005 Sep 30-
Oct 9

%

Scared/Scary

15

Sad

9

Worried

7

Shock/Shocked

7

Devastated

7

Uncertainty

6

Upset

6

Stressed/Stressed out

6

Depressed

5

Fear

4

Emotional/All kinds of emotions

4

Lost/Don't know where to turn

4

Bad

4

Confused

3

Nervous

3

Anxious/Anxiety

3

Disbelief

3

Frustrated

3

Unbelievable

2

Anger/Angry

2

Feelings of loss (loved one/home)

2

Hurt

2

Afraid

2

Concerned

2

Horrible

2

Overwhelmed

2

Helplessness

1

Distraught

1

Surprised

1

Terrible

1

Distressed

1

Crying

1

Relieved/Relief

1

Blessed (God was with me)

1

Terrified

1

Happy

1

Apprehension

1

Homeless

1

Hopeful/Hope

1

Tired

1

Feeling better now/All right
/Back to normal

1

Calm/Stable

1

Thankful

1

Disgusted

*

Aggravated

*

Displaced

*

Lucky/Fortunate

*

Homesick

*

Grateful

*

Other

16

None

2

All

*

No opinion

*

* Less than 0.5%

Percentages add to more than
100% due to multiple responses.

2. Now, thinking about your emotions in more recent days, what kinds of emotions are you feeling now? [OPEN-ENDED]

2005 Sep 30-
Oct 9

%

Feeling better now/All right/
Back to normal

24

Relieved/Relief

8

Sad

8

Stressed/Stressed out

5

Depressed

4

Frustrated

4

Emotional/All kinds of emotions

4

Happy

4

Uncertainty

3

Lost/Don't know where to turn

3

Confused

3

Blessed (God was with me)

3

Thankful

2

Angry/Anger

2

Feelings of loss (loved one/home)

2

Upset

2

Anxious/Anxiety

2

Worried

2

Hopeful/Hope

2

Overwhelmed

2

Devastated

2

Tired

2

Bad

1

Homesick

1

Calm/Stable

1

Homeless

1

Concerned

1

Shock/Shocked

1

Grateful

1

Scared/Scary

1

Helplessness

1

Disgusted

1

Crying

1

Aggravated

1

Unbelievable

1

Nervous

1

Displaced

1

Lucky/Fortunate

1

Disbelief

1

Hurt

1

Fear

1

Distressed

*

Distraught

*

Apprehension

*

Terrified

*

Afraid

*

Terrible

*

Horrible

*

Surprised

*

Other

15

None

2

No opinion

1

* Less than 0.5%

Percentages add to more than
100% due to multiple responses.

3. What, if anything, has helped you to get through this difficult emotional time? [OPEN-ENDED]

2005 Sep 30-
Oct 9

%

Family

37

Faith/Spirituality/Belief in Jesus/God/Prayer/Worship

27

Community/Neighbors/Citizens reaching out to help

8

Friends

8

FEMA

4

Getting back to work/Having a job/coworkers

4

Talking with others/Peace of mind/Local support

4

Keeping busy/Getting back into the daily structure

3

Various organizations

2

Services/Help provided by church/church members

2

Food stamps

*

Insurance

*

Other

21

Nothing

3

Everything

*

No opinion

1

Percentages add to more than 100% due to multiple responses.

10. As a result of Hurricane Katrina, to what extent are you currently experiencing -- [RANDOM ORDER] -- a great deal, quite a bit, some, very little, or none?

2005 Sep 30-Oct 9
(sorted by "great deal")

Great
deal

Quite
a bit

Some

Very
little

None

No
opinion

Trouble sleeping

22%

16

23

15

23

1

Feelings of anxiety

20%

18

28

17

16

1

Feelings of depression

20%

15

28

17

19

1

11. Please say whether you, personally, have felt each of the following emotions in response to Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, or not. How about -- [RANDOM ORDER]?

2005 Sep 8-11
(sorted by "yes, have")


Yes,
have


No,
have not


No
opinion

Sadness

98%

2

*

Shock

78%

22

*

Anger

62%

37

1

* Less than 0.5%

Get Articles in Related Topics:


Gallup http://www.gallup.com/poll/19234/Katrina-Victims-Fear-Replaced-Relief-Majority-Still-Scarred.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030