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Available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike 4.0 International Licence


Psychiatry, Public and environmental health


Extreme Weather Events (EWEs) impose a substantial health and socio-economic burden on exposed populations. Projected impacts on public health, based on increasing EWE frequencies since the 1950s, alongside evidence of human-mediated climatic change represents a growing concern. To date, the impacts of EWEs on mental health remain ambiguous, largely due to the inherent complexities in linking extreme weather phenomena with psychological status. This exploratory investigation provides a new empirical and global perspective on the psychological toll of EWEs by exclusively focusing on psychological morbidity among individuals exposed to such events. Morbidity data collated from a range of existing psychological and well-being measures have been integrated to develop a single (“holistic”) metric, namely, psychological impairment. Morbidity, and impairment, were subsequently pooled for key disorders-, specifically PTSD, anxiety and depression. A “composite” (any impairment) post-exposure pooled-prevalence rate of 23% was estimated, with values of 24% calculated for depression and ⁓17% for both PTSD and anxiety. Notably, calculated pooled odds ratios (pOR = 1.9) indicate a high likelihood of any negative psychological outcome (+90%) following EWE exposure. Pooled analyses of reported risk factors (p < 0.05) highlight the pronounced impacts of EWEs among individuals with higher levels of event exposure or experienced stressors (14.5%) and socio-demographic traits traditionally linked to vulnerable sub-populations, including female gender (10%), previous history (i.e., pre-event) of psychological impairment (5.5%), lower socio-economic status (5.5%), and a lower education level (5.2%). Inherent limitations associated with collating mental health data from populations exposed to EWEs, and key knowledge gaps in the field are highlighted. Study findings provide a robust evidence base for developing and implementing public health intervention strategies aimed at ameliorating the psychological impacts of extreme weather among exposed populations.