Abstract: Predictors of Perceived Disaster Consequences (Society for Social Work and Research 25th Annual Conference - Social Work Science for Social Change)

All live presentations are in Eastern time zone.

Predictors of Perceived Disaster Consequences

Wednesday, January 20, 2021
* noted as presenting author
Regardt Ferreira, PhD, Associate Professor, Tulane University, LA
Amy Lesen, PhD, Associate Professor, Dillard University, LA
Background and Purpose: The Deepwater Horizon oil spill (DWH) is regarded as one of the largest hydrocarbon disasters in US history. The gradual impact from the millions of barrels of oil that poured into the Gulf of Mexico has had a severe consequence on the livelihoods of communities living along the coastal region. While these communities share a common experience through their connection to the Gulf of Mexico, the populations are diverse in terms of race, gender, and ethnicity; suggesting experiences and interpretation of disaster impact may bring varying perspectives. Differences in perceived disaster consequences indicate that gender greatly influenced perceived disaster consequences (Lightfoot et al., 2020). By presenting findings from a recently completed study from three Gulf Coast communities impacted by the DWH oil spill, this paper explores the roles of race and gender in perceived consequences of disaster impact to the environment and recovery.

Methods: A 60-minute, in-person survey was administered to a total of 326 residents from the Gulf Coast communities of Port Sulphur, LA; Galliano, LA; and Bayou La Batre, AL; to investigate the role of social networks, risk perceptions, perceived disaster consequences (Protective Action Decision Model - PADM), individual resilience (CD-RISC), and demographics as predictors of preparedness and resilience for future hydrocarbon events. The cross-sectional design survey respondents were predominately White (n=160), Black (n=58), and Vietnamese (n=75), with a final sample size of 326 participants. The outcome variable, perceived disaster consequences, was operationalized using an aggregated total score (0-15) of three ordinal questions from the PADM, by measuring the impact of the oil spill on the environment, economy, and social relationships.

Results: A hierarchical multiple regression analysis indicated that gender explained 5% of the variance in perceived disaster consequences F (2,322) = 120.24, p < .0001. Furthermore, resilience explained an incremental 11% of the variance in perceived disaster consequences, F (3, 320) = 138.24 p < .0001, above and beyond the variance accounted for by gender. Significant predictors are job loss as a result of the oil spill, decrease in income, and depression. Analysis indicated females had a higher degree of total perceived disaster consequences compared to lower levels of amongst males.

Conclusions and Implications: This study identified predictors of how disaster consequences are perceived as measured by the PADM among people who live in communities impacted by the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The results indicate significant effects of perceived disaster consequences on gender. Future social work research should be directed at identifying specific factors that affect resilience among various populations, and on strengthening resilience especially for vulnerable populations. Specifically, the findings suggest more nuanced and targeted interventions in the areas of disaster mental health services may be needed in order to address the unique experiences and contexts of particular communities. Implications for social work policy, practice, and research will be discussed.