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Apel, Daniel; Coenen, Michaela (17. November 2020): Physical symptoms and health-care utilization in victims of the 2013 flood disaster in Germany. A longitudinal study of health-related flood consequences and evaluation of psycho-social support. In: International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction [Forthcoming]
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Background Climate models predict an increase in frequency and intensity of flood disasters that have the potential to affect human health. However, only few studies examined the longitudinal course of physical health after floods and the modulating effect of psycho-social support on post-disaster health and health-care utilization within a naturalistic field study design. Methods A longitudinal field study with 3 waves covering a time span of 12 months was conducted in beneficiaries of the Malteser Aid Service (MAS) psycho-social support program after the 2013 flood disaster in Germany. Participants received a self-report questionnaire to inquire mental and physical health parameters. A cross-sectional survey in flood-affected but unsupported individuals was conducted as an approximate control value and to specify the characteristics of help seekers to relief organizations. Results Cardio-vascular and musculo-sceletal diagnoses represented the most frequently reported disease classes. The control group reported fewer ambulant medical consultations and lower rates of depression and post-traumatic stress symptoms compared to the MAS group. Both groups exhibited elevated rates of mental health problems and medication intake compared to the general population. Supportive counseling was an independent negative predictor for the number of ambulant medical consultations but not for hospitalization in the past 12 months. Conclusion Supportive counseling did not improve chronic physical health conditions but was associated with reduced ambulant medical consultations. Study results support a structured education for staff of relief organizations including basic knowledge of mental health and communication skills and may contribute to a specification of effective psycho-social support measures.