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7 Effects of a Natural Disaster on People’s Health

7 Effects of a Natural Disaster on People's HealthHumanitarian crises can be overwhelming and harm people’s health. For example, natural disasters, such as floods, tornados, explosions, fires, or earthquakes – all of which occur worldwide.

Each of these natural disasters can substantially affect people’s social, emotional, physical, and mental well-being.

Individuals may suffer from serious injuries and even encounter near-death situations.

They may see their friends, neighbors, family members, and the public devastated. Some of them experience irreversible loss of belongings and property.

The immediate aftereffect of a calamity is characterized by shock for people who directly witness the disaster. Depending on the extent of the loss, individuals may experience strong feelings of anxiety, panic, fear, grief, and sadness. Anger, guilt, trouble sleeping, and irritability may also surface.

These public health impacts can sometimes be short-term. But if not treated they can have adverse, long-term consequences that damage people’s psychosocial well-being and mental health.   

The consequences of disasters stay long after the mishap – diseases emerge, and public nutrition deteriorates. These long-term effects can also reduce people’s ability to heal. Such devastating situations typically need public health professionals who design plans and policies to build resilient individuals and communities.

Professionals with a disaster management degree are the ones who devise strategies to deal with natural threats and plan to combat the adverse health costs of disasters.   

Plus because I did a lot of research while creating my therapist recommended course The Anxiety Cure,I have some insights and tools to help.

With this mind, I created this article with techniques about the main effects of natural disaster on people’s health.

7 Effects of a Natural Disaster on People’s Health

It is essential to learn the difference between typical reactions to a stressful event and serious symptoms that require professional support. Here is a list of some common natural disaster impacts on human health.

1. Mental Health Problems

Natural disasters can significantly impact the population’s mental health, resulting in different medical conditions. It is common to experience feelings, thoughts, and behaviors that can be intense, confusing, and frightening. 

Individuals may develop psychological disturbances, such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), triggered by a dreadful event. Reports suggest around 15 to 75 percent of individuals who witness a natural disaster may develop post-traumatic stress disorder later. People who experience the event may suffer nightmares, flashbacks, uncontrollable thoughts about the disaster, and extreme anxiety.

These disasters can lead to developing or worsening the existing psychological conditions in people, such as depression, schizophrenia, and anxiety. The feelings of emptiness and irritability can negatively impact how a person feels, how they think, and how they act.

2. Infection

Natural disasters, such as floods, tsunamis, and tropical cyclones, can increase exposure to harmful microbes. These disasters are associated with infectious diseases like diarrhea, measles, viral hepatitis, respiratory infections, and typhoid fever. Poor hygienic conditions increase the risk of contagious, transmittable diseases developing immediately after a disastrous event.

Contaminated water is among the key culprits in causing gastrointestinal infections. Untreated injuries can maximize the risk of disease, and such conditions can lead to permanent problems if not treated.

Following a disaster, the absence of adequate medical care may mean that limited people are vaccinated and enhance the risk of outbreaks. 

3. Substance Abuse and risk of suicide

Addiction is often a result of unbearable anxiety or tragedy. The loss of possessions, loved ones, and livelihoods can shatter all the affected individuals. Shock and grief surround them. In response to the destruction around them, natural disaster survivors may turn to alcohol and other drugs as a coping mechanism to escape from their emotional exhaustion and anger.

A study focused on substance abuse following natural disasters found that the number of individuals hospitalized for alcohol and drugs increased by 35 percent following the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina, that almost destroyed New Orleans.     

Also, because of irrecoverable losses, there is an increased risk of suicidal thoughts among the survivors of earthquakes, floods, hurricanes, and other natural calamities. 

4. Deteriorating Chronic Health Conditions

Apart from worsening mental health conditions, natural disasters affect individuals with chronic diseases. People who suffer from chronic health issues are more vulnerable to further medical complications caused by stress on the body, decreased access to medication, lack of support services and medical care, and sudden lifestyle changes. For example, the condition of a diabetic patient may worsen due to a lack of a healthy diet and proper medications. Research studies focused on chronic medical conditions reported that around 30 percent of patients following Hurricane Katrina were admitted to emergency care due to deteriorated chronic conditions.

5. Poisoning

Poisoning rates can increase in the immediate aftermath of the natural disaster or sometimes over a long period, intensifying existing health issues. Not limited to this, poisoning increases the risk of new diseases. Some of the factors inducing poisoning may include

  • Contaminated water
  • Continual exposure to environmental toxins or pollution
  • Medication errors
  • Drug addiction and misuse of prescribed drugs   
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning 

Among all the causes, carbon monoxide poisoning is considered the most fatal. It happens when the power breakdowns occur during floods, hurricanes, or tornados. The use of electricity and fuel alternatives for cooking and or heating can cause carbon monoxide to accumulate in garages, homes, or campers, leading to human and animal poisoning. 

6. Physical Trauma

Severe natural disasters, such as earthquakes and hurricanes can be extremely dangerous for the general population. The findings show that natural disaster survivors may have to endure serious injuries to their bodies. These physical traumas can be due to some force or blunt object striking the body, causing deep cuts, concussions, or broken bones. Some individuals may also suffer from penetrating physical trauma, which pierces the human body or skin, leading to open wounds. If not treated on time, these wounds can lead to lasting damage.

7. Other Common Side Effects on People’s Health

The occurrence of natural disasters can take a huge toll on your health. There are some common side effects that almost all the survivors experience in the first week following the event. The symptoms fade away in a few days for some people, while others may experience them for over a month. These include

  • Inability to concentrate on tasks
  • Inability to work
  • Disturbances in the sleep cycle or insomnia
  • Low self-esteem
  • Sudden loss of interest in people or activities
  • Refraining from news or discussions related to the disaster
  • Sudden increased or decreased appetite

Conclusion: Natural Disaster’s Effects on People’s Health

A natural disaster results in the catastrophic collapse of businesses, homes, infrastructure, and whatnot. It is a horrible experience for those who witness such disasters. Natural disasters can have devastating impacts on people’s physical and mental health. Even if they don’t get affected physically, they see their friends, family, and other people affected by the dangers they have faced. It is common for survivors to feel sad, angry, guilty, and frightened. From mental health disorders, such as depression and PTSD, to physical injuries and poisoning, these disasters directly impact human health, leading to acute, long-term, and sometimes life-threatening consequences. 

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