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Flood victims more likely to suffer poor mental health, survey reveals

Warwick Road in Carlisle suffered serious damage after the wrath of Storm Desmond in 2015. Credit: PA

People whose homes have been damaged by storms and flooding are at greater risk of mental illness, according to a new study.

Research led by the University of York found that in flood-hit areas like Cumbria and southern Scotland those directly affected are 50% more likely to have mental health problems.

The university team and the National Centre for Social Research analysed more than 7,500 responses to the Adult Psychiatric Morbidity Survey in England.

For the first time, participants were asked whether their home had been damaged by extreme weather in the last six months.

During this time - December 2013 to March 2014 - the UK saw more than four million flood warnings and more than 10,000 properties were left underwater.

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respondents said they lived in a storm or flood damaged home in the last six months.

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Analysts then looked into incidences of common mental health disorders (CMD), from depression and phobias, to anxiety and suicidal thoughts.

Their research found storm related damage was significantly associated with CMD, suicidal ideation and previous suicide attempts.

People were more likely to experience poor mental health even when the damage was relatively minor and they were not forced to leave their homes, the study suggested.

The clear up operation at Pooley Bridge after it was washed away by high water in December 2015.

"This is reflective of the huge impact storms and flooding have on people's lives as alongside the physical damage to homes and businesses, there is the emotional damage to the sense of security that many people derive from their home."

– Professor Hilary Graham, from the department of health sciences at the University of York.

The authors of the study say they did not investigate people whose homes were spared but experienced the flooding.

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