Relative Impact of Human & Natural Trauma on Psychological Functioning

Javeen Lynette Beard, George Fox University


Trauma, both natural and human induced, affects numerous people daily, often significantly impairing their quality of life. Human trauma and the subsequent quality of life has been extensively examined, but natural trauma remains largely overlooked. This study compares the quality of life following human and natural trauma. Because no suitable measure could be located, a 12-item Natural Disaster Assessment (NDA) was developed. Reponses were rated on a 7-point continuum from strongly agree to strongly disagree. Participants were recruited using Mechanical Turk. Among 136 participants, 56 were male (41.2%), 79 were female (58.1%), and one identified as other (0.7%). Participants completed a demographic questionnaire, Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs; Felitti, et al., 1998), Cumulative Trauma Scale (CTS; Kira et al., 2008), Multidimensional Scale of Perceived Social Support (MSPSS; Zimet et al, 1988, 1990), NDA, Impact of Events Scale-Revised (IES-R; Weiss & Marmar, 1997), International Trauma Questionnaire (ITQ; part A and part B Cloitre, et al., 2018), and the Satisfaction with Life Scale (SWLS; Pavot & Diener, 1993). Alpha for the NDA was .83; mean and standard deviation were 33.28/3.13. Results suggested social support was unrelated to NDA but negatively correlated with ACEs (r = -.41). NDA was unrelated to satisfaction with life, but was strongly negatively related to the CTS and negatively related to IES-R, ITQ-A, and ITQ-B. In contrast, ACEs also had no relationship to satisfaction with life, a significant negative correlation with social support, and significant positive correlations with IES-R, ITQ-A, and ITQ-B. Results clearly differ for natural and human trauma. It appears human trauma may accompany natural trauma and divert attention from natural trauma or alter its impact. Limitations include participants who may or may not have experienced a trauma. Future studies should confirm the presence of trauma to better compare human and natural trauma.