The psychological impact of exposure to floods

Psychol Health Med. 2010 Jan;15(1):61-73. doi: 10.1080/13548500903483478.


A number of studies have shown a range of symptoms resulting from exposure to natural disasters such as flooding. Among these consequences, individuals may experience symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety. The aim of this study was to examine the psychological impact of flooding in the UK. A cross-sectional survey was used to investigate the psychological symptoms associated with the aftermath of the flood amongst adults living in the affected communities. A questionnaire battery including the Harvard Trauma Questionnaire (trauma and symptoms associated with PTSD), Hopkins Symptom Checklist (anxiety and depression), Coping Strategies Questionnaire and a range of questions addressing sociodemographic characteristics and factors relating to the flood was administered to households in flood-affected areas. Four hundred and forty four completed questionnaires were returned. 27.9% of participants met criteria for symptoms associated with PTSD, 24.5% for anxiety and 35.1% for depression. Females had higher mean scores on PTSD, anxiety and depression than males. Most frequently reported coping strategies were rational, detached and avoidant, with the least frequent being emotional coping. Having to vacate home following flood, previous experience of flooding and poor health were associated with greater psychological distress. Detached coping appeared to be related to less distress. Although it is not possible to determine whether the symptoms were a direct consequence of the flood, symptoms of distress are a significant issue amongst communities affected by environmental events warranting further attention to prevent chronic distress.

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • Floods*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology*
  • United Kingdom / epidemiology
  • Young Adult