Impact of secondary stressors on urban and rural communities affected by repeated flooding and the potential resulting health implications: A pilot study

Jill Stephenson, Marie Vaganay, Robert Cameron

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Secondary stressors can be defined as ongoing, unresolved factors, indirectly associated with a defined prior event or events, resulting in emotional strain among affected individuals and acting as obstacles in a return to what is perceived as normality. An example is the complications relating to flood repair works. An important gap in flood research to date is studying the impact of secondary stressors specifically on flood victims and on different types of communities, for example urban and rural areas. Methods: Semi-structured interviews and the completion of a subsequent questionnaire with residents from urban and rural areas affected by reoccurring flood events. Results: Key secondary stressors included damage to property and possessions, repair works, fear of reoccurring flooding and lack of confidence in or help from agencies. Half of the participants achieved an Impact of Event score which indicated they had at least some of the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with 4 residents obtaining a score above the cut-off point for a probable diagnosis of PTSD. Discussion: Residents who have experienced reoccurring flooding are affected by multiple stressors simultaneously, thus expedient settlement of resolvable issues such as insurance claims cannot be underestimated as it minimises the extent of stress placed on those affected. It is essential to conclude which secondary stressors have the most detrimental impact on residents, as they are the stressors most likely to contribute to flood related health conditions and may require support to resolve. Future quantitative work will determine if communities with different geographical locations experience similar stressors.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)127
Number of pages134
JournalInternational Research Journal of Public and Environmental Health
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sep 2015



  • Flooding, secondary stressors, health, flood risk, urban, rural

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