Devastation beyond the storm: Hurricane Ian the latest disaster to cause increase in suicides

Devastation beyond the storm: Hurricane Ian the latest disaster to cause increase in suicides

September 28, 20232 min read

This week marks one year since Hurricane Ian decimated towns along Florida's Gulf Coast, erasing whole neighborhoods and claiming 160 lives. Recent research found that the toll could continue to rise.

The Tampa Bay Times reported that six people have taken their lives since the Category 5 storm moved on from the area. Increases in the number of suicides after a disaster is sadly not an uncommon occurrence, according to research by the University of Delaware's Jennifer Horney, professor founding director of UD's epidemiology program.

According to a study led by Horney in The Journal of Crisis Intervention and Suicide Prevention, suicide rates increased 23% when comparing the three-year period preceding a disaster to three years after an event.

  • For all disaster types combined as well as individually for severe storms, flooding and ice storms, researchers found the suicide rate increased in both the first and second year following a disaster, then declined in the third year.

  • Flooding saw suicide rates increase by nearly 18% the first year and 61% the second year before declining to the baseline rate after that.

  • By contrast, the suicide rate following hurricanes rose in the first year — jumping 26% — then returned to the baseline in the second year. “Counties impacted by hurricanes saw the biggest increase in the rate of suicide in the first year, which makes sense because it's the most widespread type of disaster among those we examined,” Horney said.

Horney's research focuses on the impacts of natural disasters on public health, as well as linkages between disaster planning and the actions communities and individuals take to prepare, respond and recover.

To request an interview, click on her profile and use the contact button to connect with the researcher.

Connect with:
  • Jennifer Horney
    Jennifer Horney Professor and Director, Epidemiology

    Jennifer Horney's research focuses on the health impacts of disasters and public health emergencies including climate change.

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