Vulnerable groups in South Africa have a higher risk of depression caused by natural disasters, the analysis suggests.
People living in disaster-affected communities in sub-Saharan Africa are more likely to feel depressionthe most susceptible women, black Africans and low-wage earners, the analysis suggests.
Climate change is one of the most defining sustainable development challenges in the region and is causing more frequent and intense weather events such as floods and droughts.
South Africa recorded 54 natural disasters from 2000 to 2019 – the third largest in Africa after Kenya with 60 events and Mozambique with 55, according to a survey of South African researchers.
They say there has been a lack of country-level research on the potential link between the onset of depression and societal disasters in sub-Saharan Africa. This prompted them to analyze data from 17,255 adults who participated in a study on South Africa’s national income dynamics from 2008 to 2017 who were not experiencing depression at the time the study began.
“The likelihood of natural disaster depression in society has been particularly pronounced among women, black Africans and people with lower education or income,” said Andrew Tomita, lead author of a study published last month (April 6) in PLOS climate.
“Although climate change is a key factor in disasters, sub-Saharan Africa is not receiving enough attention or large-scale evidence of mental health the consequences of social disasters. “
Tamita, a senior lecturer at the School of Nursing and Public Health at KwaZulu-Natal University in South Africa, told SciDev.Net that the results are consistent with evidence that exposure to stress and catastrophic events such as floods, droughts, mass unrest due to xenophobia and loss of agriculture due to fire can lead to depression.
“It is also not surprising to find a link between the cumulative impact of natural disasters and the first onset of depression among some socially vulnerable groups, given South Africa’s historical context, which is marked by a legacy of patriarchal social structures and persistent poverty,” said Tomita. .
Gareth Barnwell, an independent clinical psychologist based in Johannesburg, South Africa, adds that the study brings new information as stressful events such as catastrophic floods and severe loss of life leave a lasting impact on communities without access to personal resources. level.
Barnwell explains that most South Africans are uninsured and have small savings.
There is a history of municipal failures and infrastructure failures due to disasters, says Barnwell, who last year published a report on climate change and mental health in South Africa. He says people often feel left out as the burden of responsibility shifts from community to individual, creating a heightened sense of insecurity.
“This is a well-conducted study using two data sets that are considered reliable,” said Karadie Wright, a health expert who heads the Environmental and Health Research Group at the South African Medical Research Council.
“Disasters can definitely affect mental health, so research will be warranted.”
Tamita says children who are also vulnerable to natural disasters were not included due to a lack of data on depression during the study period.
Although women and black Africans suffer more from natural disasters, he adds, they have fewer resources and support to help them cope psychologically.
It offers timely access to community activities for disaster survivors, with priority given to social vulnerable groups.
“It makes sense because many of these groups will not have the means to cope with post-disaster recovery, and it can lead to mental illness, such as depression,” Wright agrees.
The study recommends changing disaster risk management policies and proposes food social subsidies that could mitigate loss of income and loss of crops as a result of natural disasters.
“[The study] helps determine where investments should go and how we should support people from these affected communities, ”adds Barnwell.
For Wright, the key question remains: “How will this information be passed on to the right people to help make these changes and put the study into action?”
Andrew Tamita et al., The Disaster Community and the First Beginning of the Depression: A Panel Analysis of South Africa’s Nationally Representative Data, 2008–2017, PLOS climate (2022). DOI: 10.1371 / journal.pclm.0000024
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Citation: Low-wage women, “prone to catastrophic depression” (2022, May 6) obtained May 6, 2022 from https://medicalxpress.com/news/2022-05-women-earners-prone- disaster-linked-depression. html
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