I find causal evidence that Hurricane Katrina increased stress, smoking, binge drinking, and health insurance coverage in the non-impacted storm surge region. In this region, Hurricane Katrina increased health insurance coverage by 440,000 young adults, the number of smokers by 930,000, and the number of binge drinkers by 510,000. Results are robust to varying the location and time of Hurricane Katrina, varying the pre-Hurricane Katrina time window, and excluding counties within 400 miles of New Orleans. Findings suggest that disasters are integral to the formation of risk perceptions and affect the demand for behavioral health and health insurance.
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