Healthcare Director: Sandy Victims Have Higher Levels of Anxiety, Depression, Substance Abuse

As damage from Hurricane Sandy slowly fades away, the emotional impact still remains for many of the storms victims. A Medicare data study shows that victims from Sandy show an increase in anxiety, depression and substance abuse. Healthcare Quality Strategies Project Director Suzanne Dalton told NJTV News Managing Editor Mike Schneider that she was not surprised with the results.

“We are not really surprised by the results. Past experience has shown that a disaster — whether it’s natural, man made — can have long-term effects,” said Dalton.

Although the data is based on a year, Dalton said it would be interesting to see what additional data becomes available moving forward.

With the information collected from the study, Dalton said that community members have been good at trying to meet the physical and emotional needs of victims. Dalton also said that this is the first time that people have looked at Medicare claims to use them in a constructive way.

The Medicare data revealed that there has been an increase in anxiety and depression among some age groups and ethnic groups. Medicare individuals 85 years old and over have seen an increase in anxiety. Increases have also been seen in anxiety, depression and substance abuse among Hispanics.

As the studies continue and as more results are released, Dalton said that one more quarter of data is expected and that results will be updated in June, although the study officially ends on July 31. Although the study ends in July, Dalton said that some symptoms for some victims may not show immediately or during the study.

“There are people still displaced so their anxiety or depression or signs and symptoms may still not occur for another year or two,” said Dalton. “It takes a long time. The good part is people are recognizing behavioral health issues and doing something about it in a way that benefits the communities and the counties, and that’s great.”