The Psychosocial Impact of the 2015 Nepal Earthquake on Nepalis in the United States

Surendra Bir Adhikari, PhD MedSoc, Damber K Gurung, PhD, Mark Gorkin, MSW, Deelasha Rayamajhi, MA
Publication date: 
13 October 2017

While the major earthquake of April 25, 2015 impacted millions of people throughout Nepal, it also had far-reaching ramifications on Nepalis living in the United States and other nations in the world. As per single ethnicity reported in U.S. Census 2010, the number of Nepalis in the United States increased 561% to 51,907 Nepalis over the 7,858 reported in 2000. It is challenging to come up with a realistic assessment of the earthquake’s psycho-social impact on family members, relatives, and friends living abroad. The Be Well Initiative (BWI) embraced a Community Based Participatory Research (CBPR) approach to launch the Community Behavioral Health Needs Assessment (CBHNA). The CBHNA collected data on 389 respondents regarding the impact of the Nepali earthquake on the behavioral health of Nepalis living in the U.S. The ultimate goal was to gather information to further identify behavioral and mental health resources for the U.S. based Nepali and Bhutanese communities. 

The quantitative findings, augmented by insights from qualitative focus group and community conversations, provide selected take-away insights and recommendations for dissemination and policy translation. When specifically asked if they were able to find help to feel better during the first week of the earthquake, close to 58% responded they did not.Concerning behavioral symptoms (immediate trauma) experienced within the first week of the April 25th earthquake in 2015, 67.8% were extremely and 17% quite a bit worried about family in Nepal. A look at the results on select currently experienced behavioral symptoms point to the prolonged and long-lasting associated impact of the trauma even after several months transpired since the April 25 earthquake. Concerning coping mechanisms or resources that helped to cope with the problems, findings were encouraging as they reflected a good degree of social support. Qualitative data findings revealed that 2015 Earthquake led to aggravated symptoms and behavioral health conditions especially among those: (a) who lost a close family member or friend, (b) who have family members or friends that sustained serious injuries in Nepal, and/or (c) close ones that lost their homes and property.