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Study reveals alarming link between disasters and depression

Study reveals alarming link between disasters and depression

Fire burning sugar cane fields

In recent yearsThe world has seen an onslaught More apocalypticExtreme weather events, which have become increasingly common, are More frequentDue to the Climate crisis.

Of course, these events could have some impact on our mental health. Very few studiesWe have done a thorough assessment of the connections between disasters, mental health, and other factors. However, a New reportcould fill in important gaps regarding climate change and mental illness.

Published Wednesday in the journal PLOS Climate, the study examines the connection between “community disasters” depression in South Africa. The findings speak to an urgent need to devote greater attention — and resources — to the physical and Mental health in vulnerable communitiesIn the aftermath of disasters such as extreme weather events.

“Our investigation in South Africa provides large-scale empirical evidence on the likelihood of depression among individuals living in a community affected by a disaster,” Andrew TomitaThe study’s lead author and senior lecturer at KwaZulu Natal’s School of Nursing and Public Health in South Africa, tells us. Inverse.

What’s new —Two alarming conclusions were reached by researchers after analyzing data from more 17,000 South Africans.

First: exposure to disasters was “significantly associated” with the likelihood of the first onset of depression. The result is that people who were subject to the disaster were more likely to develop depression than those who weren’t.

“It is possible that experiencing multiple disasters … can negatively impact mental health, or make people more susceptible to the effects of subsequent disasters,” the researchers conclude in the paper.

Second, the most at-risk groups were often low-income or black South Africans. As womenPeople with less formal education. Researchers, on the other hand, did NotThere is a stronger association between depression and disasters in those with higher incomes or higher education levels than in those who are men.

The paper suggests that the negative impact of community disasters “may be more pronounced among individuals considered chronically socially vulnerable.”

“Unfortunately, gender inequality and poverty are persistently high in South Africa,” Tomita says, adding that women and Black Africans often have fewer resources to “psychologically cope with the consequence of disasters.”

The researchers examined the significant links between disasters — such as fires — and depression. Getty

Why it matters —Africa is seeing an increase in natural catastrophes. Africa accounted to 23 percent of global disasters in 2019.

Although climate change is one of the most significant challenges to sustainable development in the region, “there is not enough attention in sub-Saharan Africa or large-scale evidence that speaks to the mental health impact of community disasters,” according to Tomita.

The researchers write that the “occurrence of disasters and their impacts on society may be underestimated in Africa” so studies like this will be crucial to accurately understand the community impacts of disasters on the continent as climate change accelerates. This new study highlights vulnerable racial and low-income communities in regions that are often overlooked when discussing climate change.

According to the paper, the “potentially greater number and severity of natural disasters in Africa than elsewhere may further aggravate fragile public healthcare systems and diminish the availability of mental health care.”

These findings could have ripple effects beyond just in South Africa — which faces both Flooding and severe drought in part due to climate change — but around the globe. The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) reportedGlobal warming will lead to an increase in extreme weather events by 2021. recent studiesClimate anxiety is a growing problem, especially among young people.

Therefore, data related to climate change-linked disasters and specific mental health issues — like Depression — will be crucial as more and more people around the world experience the effects of global warming.

“Ecological distress, a form of psychological distress related to present or anticipated ecological change, cannot be ignored,” the researchers argue in the study.

A woman in South Africa carries a bucket of water to an informal settlement near Cape Town. The area has been hit hard by droughts in recent years. New research suggests that community disasters like drought can increase depression risk. Getty

How they did it —The researchers collected data from thousands of people from the South African National Income Dynamics Study. This study was conducted between 2008-2017. All of the individuals were free from depression at the beginning.

Nearly 3,000 of the 17,000 people in the data were exposed during the research period. For the purposes of their study, researchers mostly used the term “community disaster” rather than “natural disasters” since it can be difficult to distinguish between natural and manmade events. The study covers drought, flooding and fire-related agricultural losses, as well as tornadoes and mass unrest due to xenophobia.

The scientists then used statistical models to determine the correlation between exposure to disasters and depression, as well as the links between certain demographics — such as socioeconomic status and gender — and depression onset to reach their sobering conclusion.

What’s next —Researchers have this data and hope that the government, public sector and other organizations can help build more. Climate-resilient Communities.

The scientists stress policymakers will need to provide “timely access to community-based supportive intervention” for disaster survivors, as well as greater access to mental health services in primary care settings. As the climate crisis is causing more damage to communities, it will not suffice to provide individual treatment.

“As our investigation pointed out, the detrimental impact of disasters on mental health is long-lasting,” Tomita says.

Future research will likely focus on the community effects of long-term heat stresses, which will draw attention to the complex connections between mental health and climate change.

“We would like to investigate the impact of long-term trends of heat and heat stress on mental health to raise awareness about the danger of climate change in sub-Saharan Africa, especially in vulnerable communities,” Tomita adds.

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