Over the past four years, residents of Puerto Rico have experienced three major compound disasters, known locally as the “Dire Trio:” Hurricane Maria in September 2017, earthquakes in late 2019 and early 2020, and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic of 2020-21. This study focuses on college students and recent college graduates in Puerto Rico and how the Dire Trio affected their mental health and well-being. More specifically, we explored the disasters’ effects on their physical and mental health, family and community stability, future plans, and resilience. Young adults can be particularly vulnerable to long-term negative outcomes following disasters, because these events so often interrupt critical periods in their life-course, such as finishing their education and entering the workforce. But young people also have other capacities that can make them resilient and important contributors to community recovery. It is particularly important to understand this group in Puerto Rico, as the archipelago struggles to rebuild its economy and communities, because the future of the island will be shaped significantly by the decisions young people make in the coming years. To understand this group’s post-disaster challenges, capacities, and hopes, we collaborated with Mentes Puertorriqueñas en Acción (MPA), a youth civic engagement organization based in Puerto Rico, to conduct a web-based survey and in-depth interviews with college students and recent college graduates. The surveys and interviews revealed that the young adults expressed attachment and commitment to their homeland despite psychological and economic stressors. However, they suffered direct impacts from the natural disasters, such as loss of electricity, water, homes, and livelihoods, as well as longer-term challenges at home and in their communities.
|Name||Natural Hazards Center Quick Response Grant Report Series|