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
Pages (from-to)46-55
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Traumatic Stress
Volume34
Issue number1
Early online date2 Nov 2020
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021

Keywords

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

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