Extreme weather events may lead to poor mental health: Study
Extreme weather events may have a negative impact on the mental well-being of people. Those whose homes are damaged by storms or floods are significantly more likely to experience mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, suggests a study.
The study published in the journal 'International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health' found that people with weather-damaged homes are more likely to experience poor mental health even when the damage is relatively minor and does not force them to leave their homes.
The researchers analysed data from a large national mental health survey called the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey (APMS).
Survey fieldwork took place throughout 2014 and included a question which asked participants if their home had been damaged by wind, rain, snow or flood in the six months prior to the interview - this period included December 2013 to March 2014, which saw severe winter storms and extensive flooding in the United Kingdom.
Taking other factors known to increase the risk of poor mental health into accounts - such as social disadvantage, debt, and poor physical health - the researchers found that people who had experienced storm and flood damage to their homes were about 50 per cent more likely to experience poorer mental health.
"This study shows that exposure to extreme or even moderate weather events may result in 'psychological casualties' with significant impacts on mental health," said study's lead author Hilary Graham from the Department of Health Sciences at the University of York.
"This is reflective of the huge impact storms and flooding have on people's lives alongside the physical damage to homes and businesses, there is the emotional damage to the sense of security that many people derive from their home," Graham added.
The number of properties in the UK exposed to at least a one in 75-year flood risk is predicted to increase by 41 per cent under a 2-degree celsius temperature rise and by 98 per cent under 4-degree celsius temperature rise.
"With extreme weather events on the rise due to climate change, environmental and health policies need to be brought much more closely together. This means recognising that flood protection policies are also health protection policies and that better protecting community from floods is also an investment in protecting their mental health," said Graham.
"The impact of flooding on people is devastating and can last long after the floodwaters have gone away. People can be out of their homes for months or even years, and the impacts are even wider if businesses, schools, and transport routes are affected. This research highlights how the consequences of flooding can have a significant impact on mental health wellbeing," said Julie Foley, Director of Flood Risk Strategy & National Adaptation at the Environment Agency.