BC3 Journal Article “The effect of flooding on mental health: Lessons learned for building resilience”


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Foudi, S., Osés-Eraso,N., Galarraga, I. 2017. The effect of flooding on mental health: Lessons learned for building resilience. Water Resources Research. 53. (7) 5831–5844. DOI (10.1002/2017WR020435).

Abstract

Risk management and climate adaptation literature focuses mainly on reducing the impacts of, exposure to, and vulnerability to extreme events such as floods and droughts. Posttraumatic stress disorder is one of the most important impacts related to these events, but also a relatively under-researched topic outside original psychopathological contexts. We conduct a survey to investigate the mental stress caused by floods. We focus on hydrological, individual, and collective drivers of posttraumatic stress. We assess stress with flood-specific health scores and the GHQ-12 General Health Questionnaire. Our findings show that the combination of water depth and flood velocity measured via a Hazard Class Index is an important stressor; and that mental health resilience can be significantly improved by providing the population with adequate information. More specifically, the paper shows that psychological distress can be reduced by (i) coordinating awareness of flood risks and flood protection and prevention behavior; (ii) developing the ability to protect oneself from physical, material and intangible damage; (iii) designing simple insurance procedures and protocols for fast recovery; and (iv) learning from previous experiences.

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