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May 15, 2014

A study of Medicare behavioral health data before and after superstorm Sandy shows a 5.8 percent increase in anxiety disorders; 7.7 percent increase in post-traumatic stress disorder; and an 8.1 increase in alcohol and substance abuse. The study, conducted by Healthcare Quality Strategies, Inc., reviewed Medicare fee-for-service recipients in the 10 counties most affected by Sandy.

Hispanics had the highest depression and/or proxy disorder rates, followed by whites and blacks, but Asians experienced the highest increase. Women were more affected than men.

Among the 10 counties reviewed by HQSI, Ocean County experienced the biggest increase in behavioral issues. It had the largest increase in depression (4.54 percent), largest increase in anxiety disorders (11.23 percent), largest increase in depression screening, and largest increase in the use of psychiatric diagnostic procedures (17.39 percent). It had an overall relative decrease (2 percent) in substance or alcohol abuse.

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