Looking for the Silver Lining: Benefit Finding After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Middle-Aged, Older, and Oldest-Old Adults

Katie E. Stanko, Katie E. Cherry, Kyle S. Ryker, Farra Mughal, Loren D. Marks, Jennifer Silva Brown, Patricia F. Gendusa, Marisa C. Sullivan, John Bruner, David A. Welsh, L. Joseph Su, S. Michal Jazwinski

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Looking for potentially positive outcomes is one way that people cope with stressful events. In two studies, we examined perceived “silver linings” after the 2005 Hurricanes Katrina and Rita among indirectly affected adults. In Study 1, middle-aged (ages 47–64 years), older (ages 65–89 years), and oldest-old (ages 90–95 years) adults in the Louisiana Healthy Aging Study (LHAS) responded to an open-ended question on perceived silver linings in a longitudinal assessment carried out during the immediate impact (1 to 4 months after landfall) and post-disaster recovery phase (6 to 14 months post-storm). Qualitative grounded theory methods were employed to analyze these narrative data. Team-based coding yielded three core themes: (1) learning experience and better preparedness for future disasters, (2) having improved cities (Baton Rouge and New Orleans), and (3) an increase in “Good Samaritan” acts such as strangers helping one another. Responses were similar across age groups, although older adults were the least likely to report positive outcomes. Study 2 was a conceptual replication using a different sample of adults (ages 31 to 82 years) tested at least 5 years after the storms. A learning experience and preparedness core theme replicated Study 1’s findings while improved social cohesion amongst family and friends emerged as a new core theme in Study 2. These data indicate that identifying lessons learned and potentially positive outcomes are psychological reactions that may facilitate post-disaster coping and foster resilience for indirectly affected adults in the years after disaster.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)564-575
Number of pages12
JournalCurrent Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 15 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Benefit-finding
  • Hurricane effects
  • Louisiana Healthy Aging Study
  • Natural disasters
  • Oldest-old
  • Post-disaster coping

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)


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