PTSD Symptom Profiles Among Louisiana Women Affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: A Latent Profile Analysis

March 4, 2019 – New Orleans, LA

Research published in the March 2019 edition of the Journal of Affective Disorders,“PTSD Symptom Profiles Among Louisiana Women Affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: A Latent Profile Analysis,” the WaTCH (Women and Their Children)study continues to provide evidence of the PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)  Symptoms associated with the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill (DHOS; also called the BP Oil Spill or the Gulf Oil Spill). The LSU Health Sciences School of Public Health Epidemiology faculty and researchers involved with the DHOS study continue to uncover the long term effect of the exposure from this disaster. Drs. Edward Trapido, Ariane Rung, Edward Peters have continued this work in collaboration with Dr. Nicole Nugent, Departments of Pediatrics and Psychiatry and Human Behavior, Brown University Warren Alpert School of Medicine, Dr. Symielle Gaston (SPH ’16), Epidemiology Branch, National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and Ms. Jacqueline Perry, Division of Transplant Surgery, Brigham & Women’s Hospital.

The results from this latest research suggest that women in coastal Louisiana communities experience a disproportionate number of traumatic events as compared to the general population. Women in the  WaTCH  sample also reported higher symptom severity and higher levels of likely PTSD relative to epidemiological samples. Women in the  WaTCH  study sample scored at or above the suggested cut-point of 38 (Hoge et al., 2014) for likely PTSD when reporting past 1-month symptoms on the PCL-5. The analyses also revealed differences among classes in demographic factors, exposure to the DHOS, mental health symptoms, and prior traumas. For instance, compared to women with low symptom severity, women with moderate to severe symptoms were more likely to be non-white, report lower income as well as education, be non-married, and report greater DHOS exposure. An increase in the number of fights with intimate partners, which was reported in the first assessment after the DHOS, was also associated with subsequent higher PTSD symptom severity. Furthermore, prevalence of prior traumas, especially various forms of assault, often increased with symptom severity.

In general, findings showed that overall severity of PTSD symptoms was associated with mental health symptoms: classes characterized by higher levels of PTSD symptoms evidenced corresponding increases in depression severity (CES-D score) and prevalence of lifetime history of PTSD diagnosis. Previous investigations from this sample suggested that increased oil spill exposure (physical and economic) was significantly associated with depression symptoms over time (S. A. Gaston et al., 2017; Rung et al., 2016; Rung et al., 2018). The current results highlight the importance of considering not only lifetime trauma exposure but social and economic disadvantage as well as comorbid mental health conditions in post-disaster research and intervention settings. The study also reveals that a sizable number of women in the WaTCH  study communities suffer from PTSD symptoms, with roughly 13% of our sample meeting or exceeding the score threshold for probable PTSD on the PTSD Checklist-5 (total score ≥ 38) (Hoge et al., 2014), and even more women reporting subthreshold levels of PTSD symptoms. Although the two most severely symptomatic classes (4 and 5) had the highest prevalence of lifetime PTSD diagnosis, less than half of the women received a PTSD diagnosis. Similarly, less than half reported receiving past-year mental health treatment. This suggests that the majority of women in these communities with probable PTSD and/or high levels of PTSD symptoms may not receive needed mental health care.

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(Nicole Nugent MAPhD , Symielle A. Gaston MPHPhD , Jacqueline Perry MPH , Ariane L. Rung MPHPhD , Edward J. Trapido ScDF.A.C.E. , Edward S. Peters DMDSMScD , PTSD Symptom ProÞles Among Louisiana Women Affected by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill: A Latent Profile Analysis, Journal of Affective Disorders (2019), doi: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jad.2019.03.018)