Salus journal

Healthy Planet. Healthy People.

Cities / Healthy Cities

Healthy City Design 2019

Developing a framework to encompass coastal flooding and mental health under present and future climate change

By Caroline Anitha Devadason 25 Nov 2019 0

Anthropogenic climate change is altering the frequency and magnitude of extreme climate events while also changing historically stable means. One example of such change is coastal flooding, where the globally averaged mean sea level is rising slowly due primarily to expansion of the ocean and melting of land-based ice. This talk proposes a causal pathway framework to encompass the main factors impacting mental health outcomes from coastal flooding.

Download the slides for this video presentation


Coastal flooding can have myriad impacts, including on natural ecosystems, physical infrastructure, socio-economic system stress, and human health. The effect of coastal flooding on human health, in particular, mental health and the cascade of derivative effects, has attracted limited attention. Part of this problem stems from the large number of confounding factors and limitations of data to explore whether such an impact is detectable.

We propose a causal pathway framework to encompass the main factors impacting mental health outcomes from coastal flooding, beginning with anthropogenic climate change as an underlying factor. Coastal flooding is also separated into two categories: rare, catastrophic events and regular, tide-induced “nuisance flooding”, which we hypothesise will affect people differently. These “nuisance floods” cause local and temporary disruption to local services, transport and communication networks. We also consider the human-system effect in this framework by assessing a range of factors affecting people’s mental health, including prior disorders, level of preparedness, community support, degree of existing coastal protection, and perceived risk.

We conclude that based on available information, the lack of connection between climate change, coastal flooding and an individual’s perceived risk may well contribute towards limited coping capacity and the lack of desire to act in a preventive manner until it’s too late. Finding effective solutions to these challenges will address planetary and socio-economic systems
– the former through rapid, deep emissions reduction, the latter through varied forms of coastal protection and capital investment in mental healthcare quality, capacity and education. In light of this, determining an effective causal pathway is critical to systems evaluation and subsequent solutions to the wellbeing of the planet.

The full written paper is available at

Organisations involved