People whose homes are damaged by storms or flooding are significantly more likely to experience mental health issues such as depression and anxiety, according to new research. Emergency planning needs to include mental health support.
The study, led by the University of York and the National Centre for Social Research in the United Kingdom, 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 study suggests.
Taking other factors known to increase the risk of poor mental health into account – 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% 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 lead author of the study Professor 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 as 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.”
With climate change likely to increase the frequency and intensity of storms, flooding and other extreme weather events, emergency planning for extreme weather needs to include mental health support for people affected, the researchers conclude.
“This means recognising that flood protection policies are also health protection policies and that better protecting communities from floods is also an investment in protecting their mental health,” added Graham.
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