Vital Signs 2014 Report brings into view the impact of Hurricane Sandy and diverging patterns of social health measures between Nassau and Suffolk.

Report brings into view the impact of Hurricane Sandy and diverging patterns of social health measures between Nassau and Suffolk.

Long Island’s reputation for affluence masks the suffering of thousands in the region who struggle to make ends meet experience poor social health and lack access to basic services. To expose the true living conditions of Long Island’s residents, Adelphi University created Vital Signs in 2004, a multiphase research and action project which tracks the region’s social health.

Vital Signs 2014 updates the 2006 and 2009 reports and past indicators to assess performance over time and includes one new indicator, Mental Health Services, as a baseline for measuring mental health effects of Hurricane Sandy. The 188-page report breaks down 28 social indicator categories and, when data are available, analyzes each community based on zip code, income, age, gender and race/ethnicity. It also compares local data to state and national data.

The Adelphi University report found financial hardship growing in the region after Hurricane Sandy and a prolonged recession, along with increases in food insecurity, homelessness, youth drug arrests, diabetes, drug abuse, suicide and alcohol-related motor fatalities, and a rise in the percentage of income spent on housing, particularly among low and moderate income renters. Stark differences also emerged within each county. The counties are moving in opposite directions on a number of indicators such as domestic violence, violent crime, hate crime, prenatal care, infant mortality and senior unintentional falls.

Vital Signs 2014 highlights:

Hurricane Sandy

  • 35,579 homes in Nassau and 10,056 homes in Suffolk had major and severe damage from Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee.
  • A significant proportion of low- and moderate-income households – those with 80% or below a region’s median household income – were impacted by the storms, particularly renters. Nassau and Suffolk counties had the highest number of low-moderate income households impacted by the storms among all counties in New York: Nassau County had 18,426 households and Suffolk County had 5,385 households.
  • As of February 14, 2014, there were 2,769 client household cases (open or closed) in the Disaster Case Management System. 1,196 client households were displaced.
  • As of March 2014, more than $280 million of New York Rising money had been distributed.

Spike in Food Insecurity and Homelessness

  • Food insecurity is a growing problem: From November 2008 to November 2013, individual enrollment in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) increased 118% in Nassau and a 162% in Suffolk.
  • Homelessness is also increasing on Long Island: From 2007 to 2013, up 24.9%. Early assessment of 2014 numbers suggests this trend will continue, driven, in part, by households displaced by Hurricane Sandy, who longer have federal temporary housing support.

 Drug Arrests, Drug Abuse and Suicide

  • Arrests rates for drug use, sale and possession are increasing: From 2008 to 2012, up 8.4% in Nassau and 15.6% in Suffolk.
  • The drug-related discharge rate is rising: an increase of 3.7% in Nassau and 14.2% in Suffolk from 2007-2011. In 2011, the rate was 19.7 per 10,000 population in Nassau and 25.7 in Suffolk. Suffolk’s 2011 rate was higher than New York State’s rate. Among the 10 Long Island ZIP Codes with the highest 2009-2011 average drug-related discharge rates, 70% were located in in Suffolk County.
  • The suicide rate is rising: From 2005-2007 to 2009-2011, up 1.9% in Nassau and 10.1% in Suffolk. 2009-2011 rates were 5.5 per 100,000 population for Nassau and 7.6 for Suffolk. Suffolk’s suicide rate was higher than New York State’s rate. Of the 10 Long Island ZIP Codes with the highest suicide rates in 2009-2011, 7 were located in Suffolk County.


  • Hospitalization rates for diabetes are increasing: From 2002-2011, a rise of 18.2% in Nassau and 9.9% in Suffolk. In 2012, a total of 805 diabetes-related lower-extremity amputations (LEA) took place on Long Island, an increase over 778 episodes in 2006.

Alcohol-Related Motor Vehicle Deaths

  • Alcohol-related motor vehicle fatalities are escalating: an increase of 22.6% in Nassau and 13% in Suffolk from 2007-2011. Suffolk had the highest number of alcohol-related fatal crashes (61) of any New York county in 2011; Nassau County was second (38).

High Housing Costs and Increase in Mortgage Foreclosure and Delinquency

  • In the category Rental Housing Cost Burden, payment of more than 50% of a household’s gross income rose 6% in Suffolk but fell 3.6% in Nassau between 2007 and 2012. Cost burden has increased for low and moderate income households in both counties during the same time period.
  • Foreclosures persist on Long Island, even as the local housing market recovers in other areas. As of December 2013, 6.3% of homes with mortgages were in the foreclosure inventory, compared to 2.1% of homes nationwide. Lower-income communities and communities of color have borne the brunt of the foreclosure crisis. Of the 15 communities with the highest foreclosure rates in June 2013, 14 had median household incomes below their respective county levels; thirteen had greater populations of color than their respective counties.

Mental Health Services

  • Fewer adults and children are receiving public/community-based mental health services. As of November 2011, there were 15,427 consumers, a 1.8% decrease from November 2009. Use of mental health treatment settings by consumers changed between 2009 and 2011, with fewer adults and children receiving treatment in emergency rooms or inpatient settings and more receiving services in outpatient settings.

Diverging Patterns Between Counties

Domestic Violence, Violent Crime and Hate Crime

  • Domestic violence incidents are increasing in Nassau: From 2009 to 2012, up 15.2%. In contrast, domestic violence incidents decreased 3.6% in Suffolk.
  • The violent crime rate is rising in Nassau: From 2007 to 2012, up 3.1%. It fell 21.3% in Suffolk County during this same time period.
  • Nassau’s violent crime rate, which was lower than Suffolk’s in 2007, is now greater. Rates stood at 181.7 per 100,000 population in Nassau and 141.4 in Suffolk in 2012.
  • Hate crime incidents are increasing in Suffolk: Up 48.1% between 2007 and 2012. The number jumped 200% in just one year, from 2011 to 2012. By contrast, hate crime incidents decreased 54.1% in Nassau from 2007 to 2012.

Vital Signs is sponsored by Adelphi University’s Center for Health Innovation. The Center for Health Innovation (CHI) is a leader regionally and known as a trusted resource for current, timely and relevant data on pressing public health issues. By combining data from our states, counties and communities and our personal stories of living on Long Island with Adelphi’s professional expertise and demonstrated community-engagement, the University leads the way in creating a lasting change for the residents of Long Island, communities and the nation.

» Read the full study (PDF)

For further information, please contact:

Todd Wilson
Strategic Communications Director 
p – 516.237.8634
e –

Phone Number
More Info
Levermore Hall, 205
Search Menu