Secondary Stressors and Extreme Events and Disasters: A Systematic Review of Primary Research from 2010-2011

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The review findings from non-randomised studies published between 2010 and 2011 identified categories of secondary stressors such as economic stressors, health related stressors, loss of physical possessions and resources, health-related stressors, stress relating to education and schooling, stress arising from media reporting, family and social stressors, stress arising from loss of leisure and recreation; and stress related to changes in people’s views of the world or themselves; however some of the stressors extend over more than one category. Nevertheless, assumptions have been made about whether certain items are secondary stressors, and because of the unclear definitions, it was challenging to differentiate them from primary stressors.

Rapid and extensive changes occur in people’s lives and the worlds in which they live when they are exposed to extreme events and disasters. These can cause great stress to people, families and communities because of their inherent effects, such as causing short-term fear of death and exposure to traumatic events, and because of the chain of events they set in motion. The objective of the systematic review was to identify the nature of secondary stressors that are commonly identified in the literature, assess how they are measured, and develop a typology of these stressors that often affect people after extreme events. The review has established a sound understanding of secondary stressors that occur following extreme event, however more research aimed at defining secondary stressors and investigating the interactions between stressors, as well as exploring inter-relationships and pathways of interaction between secondary stressors between primary and secondary stressors, are needed.

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