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Katrina Survivors Prone to Eating Disorders

A recently released study shows serious emotional disturbances among children who were affected by Hurricane Katrina. The study was published in the Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and revealed the estimated prevalence of serious emotional disturbances (SED) among residents of the affected areas was 14.9 percent
Characteristics of SED include inappropriate behavior, depression, hyperactivity, eating disorders, fears and phobias, and learning difficulties for children younger than 18.
Multiple studies have shown that natural disasters lead to increased rates of mental illness. Estimates have ranged from 5% to 40%, but most studies have projected the increased prevalence of mental illness in the lower end of the range.

Hurricane Katrina was the worst natural disaster in the U.S. in the past 75 years, affecting a land area the size of England, killing more than 1,000 people, displacing 500,000 people, and causing $100 billion in property damage (JAMA 2006; 295: 437-440).

It is a powerful reminder for those who provide after-care for victims of natural disasters, that those who have struggled with eating disorders in the past may need additional support to prevent a relapse. In addition, people who do not have a history of an eating disorder may develop one and care givers need to know the signs of an eating disorder.