In September of 2017, Hurricane Maria wrecked the power grid in Puerto Rico, causing widespread blackouts that lasted for weeks. Explore several effects of power outages on human safety and behaviour, including mental health.


Living without modern conveniences like a refrigerator, electric stove, microwave, lights, and other essentials causes a lot of stress. People struggle with anxiety as their perishable foods are put at risk. They may not have access to enough water or to hot water, which stimulates anxiety related to personal hygiene. Places of work may be closed, causing underprivileged families even more stress because of lost wages.

Social Isolation

The elderly often suffer the most during blackouts. According to University of Albany researcher Yi Lu, “a power outage cuts out communication and can cause social isolation. Especially for groups like the elderly, isolation can cause mental stress.”
For the elderly as well as single people and families, there is fear associated with the social isolation— fear connected with the risk of robbery, physical assault, and looting.

Substance Abuse

Without electricity, people are limited in the activities they can enjoy. Their normal avenues of recreation and relaxation, like TV or video gaming, are cut off. Sometimes, instead of finding healthy alternatives, people enduring a blackout slip into patterns of substance abuse. If they have had issues with substance abuse before, they can relapse or become worse. Studies show that emergency room visits from substance abuse problems actually increase during a blackout.

Mood Disorders

People with mood disorders can also be dramatically affected by power outages. While sunshine is the best mood booster, electric lights within homes and businesses can also be bright and cheery, giving a much-needed emotional lift to someone with depression or a similar disorder. Without those electric lights, patients with mood disorders may feel sadder, more anxious, and more depressed.

If you are currently seeing a psychiatrist in Singapore for help with depression or a mood disorder, make sure that you contact your psychiatrist in the event of a prolonged power outage, so you can receive extra support to help you through it.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

According to research conducted after Hurricane Katrina, 30-50% of the hurricane’s survivors suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. They went through a severe upheaval of their normal lives that included personal peril, risk to possessions and pets, a dramatically altered lifestyle, and in some cases, the death of a friend, neighbour, or family member.

According to Professor Hyun Kim at the University of Minnesota’s department of environmental health sciences, “Experiencing or witnessing first-hand serious injuries or death caused directly or indirectly caused by power outage, can lead to PTSD, which has life-threatening consequences of its own.”

Support from Your Psychiatrist in Singapore

If you experience a severe or prolonged power outage situation, assess the risks to yourself and your family. Don’t underestimate the potential for worsening depression, mood disorders, stress, and anxiety. If possible, call your psychiatrist or psychologist in Singapore for help if your symptoms worsen. At Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic, we’re here to support our patients’ mental health in Singapore, during normal life as well as during times of stress and trauma. Call us to set up an appointment and discuss ways that you can prepare and plan for your mental health in case of a blackout emergency.

News Feed from Adelphi Psych Medicine Clinic

Source: Time, 4 Oct 2017