An Evaluation of the Buffering Effects of Types and Sources of Support on Depressive Symptoms Among Natural Disaster–Exposed Chinese Adults

Brian J. Hall, Kalon Sou, Wen Chen, Fangjing Zhou, Kay Chang, Carl Latkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objective: Social support is a key protective factor for people exposed to natural disasters. The effect of type and source of this support is not well documented. Investigations are needed to identify the specific modifying role of received and perceived support from family and friends on the association between disaster exposure and depressive symptoms. Methods: Face-to-face household interviews were conducted in 2014 with a random sample of 751 adults recruited from Yuexiu and Tianhe districts in Guangzhou, China. Sampling was accomplished through spatial epidemiological methods. Participants’ exposure to disaster, depressive symptoms, and social support networks was recorded on tablet devices. Multiple regression analysis was used to test the potential moderating role of social support on depression symptoms. Results: A total of 30.24% reported natural disaster exposure. Disaster exposure and received family support were significantly and positively related to depressive symptoms. In contrast, perceived family support moderated the relationship between disaster exposure and depressive symptoms. No association was found between support from friends and depressive severity. Conclusion: Perceived family support buffered the effect of disaster exposure in this sample, while received family support was associated with increased depression. Perceived family support is an important resource among those who experience disaster exposure and actual provision of family support may be harmful or miscarried. Natural disasters are becoming increasingly prevalent in Asia. According to the Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP, 2015a), a total of 119 disaster events, accounting for more than half of the total number of disasters occurred in the world, took place in Asia in 2014, affecting 79.6 million people, among whom 6050 died. The Chinese Mainland experienced several major natural disasters, including the earthquake in Wechuan, Sichuan Province, in 2008 and natural disasters affected more than 500,000 people causing 0.4% of GDP loss (roughly US$3 trillion; ESCAP, 2015b). The current study investigated the effect of social resources on mental health following natural disaster exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)389-402
Number of pages14
JournalPsychiatry (New York)
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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