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Chronic Mental Health Sequelae of Climate Change Extremes: A Case Study of the Deadliest Californian Wildfire

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Department of Psychiatry, University of California, San Diego, CA 92037, USA
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Neural Engineering and Translation Labs, University of California, San Diego, CA 92037, USA
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Department of Psychology, University of South Carolina, Columbia, SC 29208, USA
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Department of Psychology, California State University, Chico, CA 95929, USA
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Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California, San Diego, CA 92037, USA
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Paul B. Tchounwou
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18(4), 1487; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18041487
Received: 29 December 2020 / Revised: 30 January 2021 / Accepted: 1 February 2021 / Published: 4 February 2021
Introduction. Weather-related disasters, such as wildfires exacerbated by a rise in global temperatures, need to be better studied in terms of their mental health impacts. This study focuses on the mental health sequelae of the deadliest wildfire in California to date, the Camp Fire of 2018. Methods. We investigated a sample of 725 California residents with different degrees of disaster exposure and measured mental health using clinically validated scales for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), major depressive disorder (MDD) and generalized anxiety disorder (GAD). Data were collected at a chronic time-point, six months post-wildfire. We used multiple regression analyses to predict the mental health outcomes based on self-reported fire exposure. Additionally, we included vulnerability and resilience factors in hierarchical regression analyses. Results. Our primary finding is that direct exposure to large scale fires significantly increased the risk for mental health disorders, particularly for PTSD and depression. Additionally, the inclusion of vulnerability and resilience factors in the hierarchical regression analyses led to the significantly improved prediction of all mental health outcomes. Childhood trauma and sleep disturbances exacerbated mental health symptoms. Notably, self-reported resilience had a positive effect on mental health, and mindfulness was associated with significantly lower depression and anxiety symptoms. Conclusion. Overall, our study demonstrated that climate-related extreme events, such as wildfires, can have severe mental illness sequelae. Moreover, we found that pre-existing stressful life events, resilient personality traits and lifestyle factors can play an important role in the prevalence of psychopathology after such disasters. Unchecked climate change projected for the latter half of this century may severely impact the mental wellbeing of the global population, and we must find ways to foster individual resiliency. View Full-Text
Keywords: climate change; environmental disaster; wildfire; mental health; childhood trauma; resilience; mindfulness climate change; environmental disaster; wildfire; mental health; childhood trauma; resilience; mindfulness
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MDPI and ACS Style

Silveira, S.; Kornbluh, M.; Withers, M.C.; Grennan, G.; Ramanathan, V.; Mishra, J. Chronic Mental Health Sequelae of Climate Change Extremes: A Case Study of the Deadliest Californian Wildfire. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2021, 18, 1487. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18041487

AMA Style

Silveira S, Kornbluh M, Withers MC, Grennan G, Ramanathan V, Mishra J. Chronic Mental Health Sequelae of Climate Change Extremes: A Case Study of the Deadliest Californian Wildfire. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2021; 18(4):1487. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18041487

Chicago/Turabian Style

Silveira, Sarita, Mariah Kornbluh, Mathew C. Withers, Gillian Grennan, Veerabhadran Ramanathan, and Jyoti Mishra. 2021. "Chronic Mental Health Sequelae of Climate Change Extremes: A Case Study of the Deadliest Californian Wildfire" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 18, no. 4: 1487. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18041487

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