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How Do Wildfires Impact Mental Health? A Clinical Psychology and Environmental Psychology Podcast.


How Do Wildfires Impact Mental Health? A Clinical Psychology and Environmental Psychology Podcast Episode.

With wildfires becoming increasingly common with them destroying homes, families and entire counties, we need to know how wildfires are impacting our mental health. We need to know if wildfires increase or decrease our mental health and what we can do to improve our mental health after the effects of wildfires. If you’re interested in clinical psychology, mental health and climate change then you’re going to love today’s episode.


Today’s podcast episode has been sponsored by Abnormal Psychology: The Causes and Treatments of Depression, Anxiety and More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also, you can buy the eBook directly from me at https://www.payhip.com/connorwhiteley


How Do Wildfires Impact Mental Health?

We know that our physical health is clearly impacted by wildfires because when people get exposed to the smog, smoke and poor air quality of wildfires then this negatively impacts our physical health. For example, the wildfires in Canada earlier in 2023 led to weeks of smog as well as poor air quality to be experienced by the USA.


However, this is nothing new because this isn’t the first time (nor will it be the last) that wildfires have been linked to negative effects on our health. Especially our mental health. Since a lot of studies have focused on this research area specifically and there is a very useful meta-analysis that helps us to understand the results.


Therefore, the meta-analysis Gao et al. (2023) looked at studies that happened in Canada, the USA and Australia and 21 of these studies focused on the effects of the pollutants and the effects of wildfires on mental health. The other studies in the meta-analysis focused on physical health. As a result, as you can imagine all the studies found wildfires negatively impacted our mental health. As well as there were strong associations between wildfire exposure and Post-Traumatic Stress Distress, anger issues, specific phobia, heavy drinking and severe psychological distress.


One of the included studies even found a decade later a geographical region experienced a wildfire, there was a 22% increase in mental health difficulties and heavy drinking. This was supported by research by Brown et al. (2021) as well.


Clinical Psychology Conclusion

At the end of this rather short podcast episode today, I want to stress that even though a lot of this literature does focus on developing countries. There is good research saying that the rise in global temperatures and the wildfires it causes does impact our mental health. It doesn’t only impact our environment and farming and livelihoods. Which of course has negative impacts on the economy as well as quality of living. It does impact our mental health too.


The entire point of this podcast episode isn’t to tell that the world is doomed now because of climate change negatively impacting our mental health. This is simply another reason why climate change needs to be dealt with otherwise our mental health services will be under even more pressure as the number of wildfires around the world continues to increase.


And no one can deny this connection anymore because we have the data, science and studies to prove it. Climate change is real but it can be stopped.


I really hope you enjoyed today’s clinical psychology podcast episode.


If you want to learn more, please check out:


Abnormal Psychology: The Causes and Treatments of Depression, Anxiety and More. Available from all major eBook retailers and you can order the paperback and hardback copies from Amazon, your local bookstore and local library, if you request it. Also, you can buy the eBook directly from me at https://www.payhip.com/connorwhiteley



Have a great day.


Clinical Psychology References

Agyapong, V. I., Ritchie, A., Brown, M. R., Noble, S., Mankowsi, M., Denga, E., ... & Greenshaw, A. J. (2020). Long-term mental health effects of a devastating wildfire are amplified by socio-demographic and clinical antecedents in elementary and high school staff. Frontiers in psychiatry, 11, 448.


Bosman, Julie. (2023). “Smoky skies menace U.S. cities, driving residents indoors.” New York Times. https://www.nytimes.com/2023/06/28/us/canada-wildfire-smoke-air-quality-midwest.html


Brown, M. R., Agyapong, V., Greenshaw, A. J., Cribben, I., Brett-MacLean, P., Drolet, J., ... & Silverstone, P. H. (2019). After the Fort McMurray wildfire there are significant increases in mental health symptoms in grade 7–12 students compared to controls. BMC psychiatry, 19, 1-11.


Brown, M. R., Pazderka, H., Agyapong, V. I., Greenshaw, A. J., Cribben, I., Brett-MacLean, P., ... & Silverstone, P. H. (2021). Mental health symptoms unexpectedly increased in students aged 11–19 years during the 3.5 years after the 2016 Fort McMurray wildfire: Findings from 9,376 survey responses. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 12, 676256.


Eisenman, D. P., & Galway, L. P. (2022). The mental health and well-being effects of wildfire smoke: a scoping review. BMC public health, 22(1), 2274.


Gao, Y., Huang, W., Yu, P., Xu, R., Yang, Z., Gasevic, D., ... & Li, S. (2023). Long-term impacts of non-occupational wildfire exposure on human health: A systematic review. Environmental Pollution, 121041.


Humphreys, A., Walker, E. G., Bratman, G. N., & Errett, N. A. (2022). What can we do when the smoke rolls in? An exploratory qualitative analysis of the impacts of rural wildfire smoke on mental health and wellbeing, and opportunities for adaptation. BMC public health, 22(1), 1-12.


McDermott, B. M., Lee, E. M., Judd, M., & Gibbon, P. (2005). Posttraumatic stress disorder and general psychopathology in children and adolescents following a wildfire disaster. The Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 50(3), 137-143.


Sun, Q., Miao, C., Hanel, M., Borthwick, A. G., Duan, Q., Ji, D., & Li, H. (2019). Global heat stress on health, wildfires, and agricultural crops under different levels of climate warming. Environment international, 128, 125-136.


To, P., Eboreime, E., & Agyapong, V. I. (2021). The impact of wildfires on mental health: a scoping review. Behavioral Sciences, 11(9), 126.


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