Floods and human health: a systematic review

Environ Int. 2012 Oct 15:47:37-47. doi: 10.1016/j.envint.2012.06.003. Epub 2012 Jun 27.


Floods are the most common type of disaster globally, responsible for almost 53,000 deaths in the last decade alone (23:1 low- versus high-income countries). This review assessed recent epidemiological evidence on the impacts of floods on human health. Published articles (2004-2011) on the quantitative relationship between floods and health were systematically reviewed. 35 relevant epidemiological studies were identified. Health outcomes were categorized into short- and long-term and were found to depend on the flood characteristics and people's vulnerability. It was found that long-term health effects are currently not well understood. Mortality rates were found to increase by up to 50% in the first year post-flood. After floods, it was found there is an increased risk of disease outbreaks such as hepatitis E, gastrointestinal disease and leptospirosis, particularly in areas with poor hygiene and displaced populations. Psychological distress in survivors (prevalence 8.6% to 53% two years post-flood) can also exacerbate their physical illness. There is a need for effective policies to reduce and prevent flood-related morbidity and mortality. Such steps are contingent upon the improved understanding of potential health impacts of floods. Global trends in urbanization, burden of disease, malnutrition and maternal and child health must be better reflected in flood preparedness and mitigation programs.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Disasters
  • Floods / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Services Needs and Demand
  • Health Status*
  • Humans
  • Morbidity
  • Urbanization