A new Kaiser Family Foundation survey of people living in Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, and St. Bernard parishes documents how the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and failure to respond quickly in its aftermath have affected the well-being, physical and mental health, and personal lives of New Orleans-area residents.
The house-to-house survey, Giving Voice to the People of New Orleans: The Kaiser Post-Katrina Baseline Survey (101 pages, PDF), found that 81 percent of those living in the four parishes have seen their quality of life deteriorate in at least one of seven critical areas since the hurricane. Survey respondents were most likely to face financial setbacks, with 52 percent of respondents in the four-parish area (and 66 percent in Orleans Parish) reporting a deterioration in their economic well-being. The second most common impact, affecting 37 percent of area residents, was a severe disruption to personal life, while smaller but significant percentages of respondents reported that the storm and its aftermath had affected their marriage, relationships, or alcohol use (23 percent); physical health (19 percent); employment status (17 percent); or mental health (16 percent). Overall, the impacts were substantially more severe in Orleans Parish (the city itself) than in the other three parishes.
Despite the challenges, a majority of residents polled exhibited hope for the future of the city, with 69 percent saying they are optimistic and only 11 percent saying they plan to leave or are seriously considering leaving the city. The majority of residents also see at least some progress being made on seven of ten recovery efforts measured by the survey, including repairing the levee system, reopening schools, encouraging businesses to return, and getting medical facilities up and running. Future Kaiser surveys planned in eighteen and thirty-six months will monitor changes in and the progress of the recovery effort.
"The people of New Orleans today have suffered powerful shocks in almost all aspects of their lives, but they are also showing extraordinary resilience in the face of great adversity," said Kaiser Family Foundation president and CEO Drew E. Altman. "While debate continues at all levels of government about funding and how to rebuild the city, this survey underscores a simple message: there remains a need for accelerated recovery efforts."