26 September 2023

Climate change and what it’s doing to mental health

Start the conversation

Adapt NSW marked World Health Day last week (7 April) by encouraging people to learn more about the connection between their health and the environment, shining a light on how climate change is impacting people’s mental health.

Marking the Day, Adapt NSW said human health issues, including mental health disorders, were among the lesser-known impacts of climate change.

“Increased frequency and intensity of storms and droughts, and the increased risk of bushfires due to our changing climate can all contribute to dramatic changes to our natural and built environment, with significant flow on effects to affected individuals and communities,” Adapt NSW said.

“We don’t have to look farther than communities in northern NSW – impacted by two significant rainfall and flooding events in one month – to understand the toll that these extreme weather-related events have on local residents,” it said.

“Loss of homes and electricity, damage to properties and businesses as well as to places of cultural significance, has impacts on the health and wellbeing of individuals and the communities they’re embedded within.

“However, the full extent of this is still unclear.”

Adapt NSW said research undertaken in 2017, following devastating floods in the Northern Rivers caused by Ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie, provided a window into these less visible impacts of climate change

The Agency said the study examined rural mental health and wellbeing such as mood disorders, anxiety and distress following the floods.

“It illustrated that some populations such as those in receipt of income support and those identifying as Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander were more at risk of being flooded, evacuated and displaced and to have worse mental health outcomes than other groups,” it said.

“Broadly, the research found that those with high levels of informal social connectedness and feelings of belonging, fostered through community group or peer support activities, had better mental health outcomes,” Adapt NSW said.

Senior Research Fellow of the University Centre for Rural Health Faculty of Medicine and Health at The University of Sydney, Jo Longman said the study showed the “catastrophic” mental health effects of being displaced from home for more than six months.

“In the 2022 floods an estimated 15,000-25,000 residents are currently displaced which means a massive surge of mental health problems can be expected from these floods,” Dr Longman said.

“This research sheds light on the need for mental health to be considered alongside other climate change impacts, and can guide where and when services and resources are needed most,” she said.

Further information on climate change and its impacts on people’s health and wellbeing can be accessed at this PS News link.

Start the conversation

Be among the first to get all the Public Sector and Defence news and views that matter.

Subscribe now and receive the latest news, delivered free to your inbox.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.