Social support, interpersonal, and community dynamics following disasters caused by natural hazards

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Social support, interpersonal, and community dynamics following disasters caused by natural hazards
Social Support

The most essential, and possibly the most reliably present, characteristic of all disasters is that they exert strong impact on social relationships. Two very different, at times conflicting, dynamic processes emerge in their aftermath: the initial outpouring of immense mutual helping and solidarity, followed by a subsequent sense of loss in the quality of interpersonal and community relationships. This review of recent findings in the area of disaster mental health confirmed two major patterns of social support dynamics following disastrous events resulting from natural hazards: a mobilization of received social support and deterioration of perceived social support and sense of community. Social support is a critical resource helping people cope with natural disasters. Its psychologically and socially protective functions for survivors and their communities unfold in a complex matrix of benefits and liabilities.

  • Post disaster help is allocated via a rule of relative needs but culturally sanctioned patterns of advantage and disadvantage are also noted.
  • Findings of studies on benefits of actually received social support on survivors’ well-being are not consistent.
  • Studies assessing perceived social support dominate in disaster literature and routinely show its salutary effects on survivors’ well-being.
  • Evidence also suggests that many challenges of post disaster recovery erode interpersonal relationships and sense of community.
  • Survivors’ perceptions of being supported and belonging to a cohesive social group and community are essential for successful recovery.

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