Climate change and mental health: can the Flood Impact Framework explain the links between an extreme weather-related event and mental health and wellbeing outcomes

Summary

We are looking for capable and motivated candidates with an interest in climate change and mental health. The project explores the relationships between exposure to an extreme weather-related event and mental health and wellbeing outcomes. It will do this by assessing a Flood Impact Framework with respect to a flooding event in rural Northern NSW using two waves of cross-sectional surveys.

Supervisor(s)

Associate Professor Geoff Morgan, Professor James Bennett-Levy, Dr Jo Longman

Research Location

Rural Clinical School (Northern Rivers)

Program Type

Masters/PHD

Synopsis

Climate change modelling predicts increases in frequent extreme weather events. These events have adverse consequences for public health, disproportionately so for the poorest populations. The mental health and wellbeing of those affected by extreme weather events is an important but under-researched impact of climate change.

Rural northern NSW is a hotspot for extreme weather-related events, particularly flooding, and in 2017 the area was devastated by unusually severe flooding following cyclone Debbie. Six months afterwards, we undertook a cross-sectional survey which measured exposure and the mental health and wellbeing of the community. Over 2500 people took part. Two years following the flood we conducted a follow up survey to measure the mental health and wellbeing of our respondents. These two important local datasets provide valuable evidence about the relationships between exposure to extreme weather events and mental health and wellbeing outcomes. Our study design included the development of a Flood Impact Framework based on prior empirical research and feedback from the community. The Framework provided a starting point to articulate potential relationships between flood exposure and mental health and wellbeing outcomes, considering four other contributing factors:1. Community factors e.g. cohesion and community resilience;
2. Personal factors e.g. disadvantage;
3. Organisational factors e.g. agency response such as disaster relief; and
4. Perceptions of responses e.g. sense of blame.We hypothesised that these factors may themselves interact and act as potential mediators of the relationships between flood exposure and mental health and wellbeing outcomes. This project will answer the questions: (a) to what extent does the Flood Impact Framework explain the relationship between flood exposure and mental health and wellbeing outcomes following flooding amongst rural dwelling Australians? and (b) what is the utility of the Framework? The findings from this study will contribute to our understanding of the relationship between extreme weather-related events and mental health and wellbeing outcomes and focus attention on the most important factors which may mitigate or exacerbate those outcomes. This information is key to identifying critical opportunities to strengthen services, emergency planning and resilience for future events.

Additional Information

Please note the University Centre for Rural Health does not provide scholarships. People interested in undertaking higher research degree studies must have a competitive academic track record that would allow them to attract their own scholarship (usually either a first class Honours degree in a field of direct relevance to the proposed research, or 2nd class Honours or Masters with relevant research experience and peer-reviewed publications). International students would need both a scholarship and sufficient funds to pay the fees required by the University of Sydney. Students interested in enquiring further should provide a CV detailing their academic track record, research experience and publications. The research on which this project is based used a strong and very positive community-academic partnership approach. We envisage that this approach will be maintained throughout the project. The student would be based at the University Centre for Rural Health in Lismore in the Northern Rivers of NSW.

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Keywords

Rural health services, floods, mental health, qualitative methods, Evaluation, Primary Health Care, environmental health, Climate Change, translational research, resilience

Opportunity ID

The opportunity ID for this research opportunity is: 2794

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