Flooding and mental health: A systematic mapping review

Ana Fernandez, John Black, Mairwen Jones, Leigh Wilson, Luis Salvador-Carulla, Thomas Astell-Burt, Deborah Black

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

202 Citations (Scopus)
22 Downloads (Pure)


Background: Floods are the most common type of global natural disaster. Floods have a negative impact on mental health. Comprehensive evaluation and review of the literature are lacking. Objective: To systematically map and review available scientific evidence on mental health impacts of floods caused by extended periods of heavy rain in river catchments. Methods: We performed a systematic mapping review of published scientific literature in five languages for mixed studies on floods and mental health. PUBMED and Web of Science were searched to identify all relevant articles from 1994 to May 2014 (no restrictions). Results: The electronic search strategy identified 1331 potentially relevant papers. Finally, 83 papers met the inclusion criteria. Four broad areas are identified: i) the main mental health disorders - post-traumatic stress disorder, depression and anxiety; ii] the factors associated with mental health among those affected by floods; iii) the narratives associated with flooding, which focuses on the long-term impacts of flooding on mental health as a consequence of the secondary stressors; and iv) the management actions identified. The quantitative and qualitative studies have consistent findings. However, very few studies have used mixed methods to quantify the size of the mental health burden as well as exploration of in-depth narratives. Methodological limitations include control of potential confounders and short-term follow up. Limitations: Floods following extreme events were excluded from our review. Conclusions: Although the level of exposure to floods has been systematically associated with mental health problems, the paucity of longitudinal studies and lack of confounding controls precludes strong conclusions. Implications: We recommend that future research in this area include mixed-method studies that are purposefully designed, using more rigorous methods. Studies should also focus on vulnerable groups and include analyses of policy and practical responses.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0119929
Pages (from-to)1-20
Number of pages20
JournalPLoS One
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 10 Apr 2015
Externally publishedYes


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