Anger Dimensions and Mental Health Following a Disaster: Distribution and Implications After a Major Bushfire

Sean Cowlishaw, Olivia Metcalf, Tracey Varker, Caleb Stone, Robyn Molyneaux, Lisa Gibbs, Karen Block, Louise Harms, Colin MacDougall, Colin H. Gallagher, Richard Bryant, Ellie Lawrence-Wood, Connie Kellett, Meaghan O'Donnell, David Forbes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Anger is an important dimension of affect and a prominent feature of posttraumatic mental health, but it is commonly overlooked in postdisaster settings. We aimed to examine the distribution and implications of significant anger problems in the aftermath of a natural disaster, via analyses of Beyond Bushfires survey data from 736 residents of rural communities 5 years after the 2009 Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, Australia. Assessments included the five-item Dimensions of Anger Reaction (DAR-5) scale along with measures of PTSD, depression, and significant mental illness, and indicators of life satisfaction, suicidality, hostile aggressive behavior, and violence exposure. The results indicated that approximately 10% of respondents from areas highly affected by the bushfires scored above the provisional cutoff criteria for significant anger problems on the DAR-5, which was a more than 3-fold increase, OR = 3.26, relative to respondents from areas of low-to-moderate bushfire impact. The rates were higher among women, younger participants, and those who were unemployed, and co-occurred commonly, although not exclusively, with other postdisaster mental health problems. Anger problems were also associated with lower life satisfaction, β = −.31, an 8-fold increase in suicidal ideation, OR = 8.68, and a nearly 13-fold increase in hostile aggressive behavior, OR = 12.98. There were associations with anger problems and violence exposure, which were reduced when controlling for covariates, including probable PTSD. The findings provide evidence indicating that anger is a significant issue for postdisaster mental health and should be considered routinely alongside other posttraumatic mental health issues.

Original languageEnglish
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Early online date2 Nov 2020
DOIs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Nov 2020

Keywords

  • Disaster recovery
  • mental health
  • anger
  • Wild fires
  • Australia

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