Drought and Distress in Southeastern Australia

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    42 Citations (Scopus)


    Droughts may increase the risk of mental health problems, but evidence suggests a complex story with some groups being vulnerable while others are not. Previous studies from Australia have found associations with suicide, depression and distress that vary by age, gender and remoteness. Understanding the effects of drought on mental health is important because drought is predicted to be more intense in some areas in the future. We investigated the associations between drought and distress in a survey of rural Australians by age, gender and farming status. We collected distress data using a survey of 5312 people from across the state of Victoria, Australia, in 2015. Respondents completed the Kessler 10 (K10) Psychological Distress Index, and demographic and general health data were collected. We linked a climatic drought index to the locality of residence of respondents. Associations between distress and drought were analyzed using multivariable regression models with interactions by age, gender and farming occupation. Parts of Victoria were in drought in 2015. Drought duration was associated with higher distress in younger rural women (aged 40-54: odds ratio 1.18 per inter-quartile range increase in drought duration) but not older rural women or men. This pattern did not vary between farmers and non-farmers. Drought was associated with increased distress, but this differed between subgroups. Our results suggest that supporting younger women may be particularly important, and understanding ways older Australian rural women cope may enable us to build adaptive capacity and resilience.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)642-655
    Number of pages14
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2018


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