AccScience Publishing / IJPS / Volume 6 / Issue 1 / DOI: 10.18063/ijps.v6i1.1183

Understanding the resilience and mental health impacts of natural disasters in India: A narrative review

Sangram Kishor Patel1* Gopal Agrawal2 Bincy Mathew3
Show Less
1 Population Council, Zone 5A, India Habitat Center, Lodi Road, New Delhi, India
2 Office of Registrar General and Census Commissioner of India, New Delhi, India
3 George Institute for Global Health, New Delhi, India
IJPS 2020, 6(1), 82–98;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Environment and Population Dynamics in South Asia)
© Invalid date by the Authors. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution -Noncommercial 4.0 International License (CC-by the license) ( )

The purpose of this study is to understand the linkages between natural disasters and their impact on the mental health of people as well as associated resilience mechanisms in India. Natural disasters affect not only the physical environment but also the economy, social life, and well-being of the population. In addition to the loss of precious lives and economic losses, disasters affect the natural growth and mental health of the affected populations to a great extent. It is extremely challenging to quantify the true scale of damage caused by a disaster because physical damage is visible, but hidden impacts could be much more severe and have catastrophic effects on the socioeconomic growth of the affected families and areas. Against this background and with the limited available evidence, this study has tried to understand how disasters lead to poor mental health among the affected populations around the globe and tried to conceptualize this in the Indian context. Our review documents the different pathways for disasters to adversely affect mental health, particularly among vulnerable populations. The review also highlights how an increased frequency of disasters with climate change can lead to a post-traumatic stress disorder, adjustment disorder, and depression. Changes in climate and global warming may require populations to migrate, which can lead to acculturation stress. It can also lead to increased rates of physical illnesses, which secondarily would be associated with psychological distress. This research is an initial step in bringing this important issue forward in the context of Sustainable Development Goals and outlining that better policies need to be designed for prevention, services, and psychological counseling of mental health problems due to disasters. This study also suggests for more longitudinal research to understand the development of disaster-related mental health problems and to develop adequate mitigation strategies.

Climate change
Natural disasters
Post-traumatic stress disorder
Psychological distress
Mental health

Akhtar, R. (2007). Climate Change and Health and Heat Wave Mortality in India. Global Environ Res, 11:51-7.


Aneelraj D, Kumar CN, Somanathan R, et al. (2016). Uttarakhand Disaster 2013: A Report on Psychosocial Adversities Experienced by Children and Adolescents. The Indian Journal of Pediatrics, 83(4):316-21.


Azad AK, Hossain KM, and Nasreen M. (2013). Flood-Induced Vulnerabilities and Problems Encountered by Women in Northern Bangladesh. The International Journal of Disaster Risk Science, 4:190-9.


Babugura AA. (2008). Vulnerability of Children and Youth in Drought Disasters: A Case Study of Botswana. Children Youth and Environments, 18(1):126-57.


Becker SM. (2007). Psychosocial care for adult and child survivors of the tsunami disaster in India. Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Nursing, 20(3):148-55.


Berry HL, Bowen K, and Kjellstrom T. (2010). Climate Change and Mental Health: A Causal Pathways Framework. International Journal of Public Health, 55(2):123-32.


Bharti V. (2011). Indebtedness and Suicides: Field Notes on Agricultural Labourers of Punjab. Economic and Political Weekly, 46(14):35-40.


Bhunia R and Ghosh S. (2011). Waterborne Cholera Outbreak Following Cyclone Aila in Sundarban Area of West Bengal, India, 2009. Transactions of the Royal Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene, 105(4):214-9.


Brooks SK, Dunn R, Amlôt R, et al. (2016). Social and Occupational Factors Associated with Psychological Distress and Disorder among Disaster Responders: A Systematic Review. BMC Psychology, 4(1):18.


Catapano F, Malafronte R, Lepre F, et al. (2001). Psychological consequences of the 1998 landslide in Sarno, Italy: A community study. Acta Psychiatrica Scandinavica, 104(6):438-42.


Cavallo E, Powell A, and Becerra O. (2010). Estimating the Direct Economic Damages of the Earthquake in Haiti. The Economic Journal, 120(546):298-8.


Chadda RK, Malhotra A, Kaw N, et al. Mental Health Problems Following the 2005 Earthquake in Kashmir: Findings of Community-run Clinics. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, 22(6):541-5.


Chadda RK. (2018). Mental Health Services in Disaster-Affected Population in Low-Resource Settings. Indian Journal of Social Psychiatry, 34:7-10.


Chandran D, Roopesh N, Raj A, et al. (2015). Psychosocial Impact of the Uttarakhand Flood Disaster on Elderly Survivors. Indian Journal of Gerontology, 29(1):62-76.


Channaveerachari NK, Raj A, Joshi PP, et al. (2015). Psychiatric and Medical Disorders in the after Math of the Uttarakhand Disaster: Assessment, Approach, and Future Challenges. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 37(2):138.


Chhotray V and Few R. (2012). Post-disaster Recovery and Ongoing Vulnerability: Ten Years after the Super-Cyclone of 1999 in Orissa, India. Global Environmental Change, 22(3):695-702.


Cianconi P, Betrò S, and Janiri L. (2020). The Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health: A Systematic Descriptive Review. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11:74.


Clifford B. (1999). The New South Wales Fire Brigades’ Critical Incident Stress Management Response to the Thredbo Landslide. International Journal of Emergency Mental Health, 1(2):127-33.


Crabtree A. (2013). Questioning Psychosocial Resilience after Flooding and the Consequences for Disaster Risk Reduction. Social Indicators Research, 113(2):711-28.


CRED. (2005). Disaster Data: A Balanced Perspective. Brussels, Belgium: Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, CREAD.


CRED. (2015). The Human Cost of Natural Disasters 2015: A Global Perspective. Brussels, Belgium: Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters, CREAD.


Dar KA, Iqbal N, Prakash A, et al. (2018). PTSD and Depression in Adult Survivors of Flood Fury in Kashmir: The Payoffs of Social Support. Psychiatry Research, 261:449-45.


Dean JG and Stain HJ. (2010). Mental Health Impact for Adolescents Living with Prolonged Drought. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 18(1):32-7.


Deshpande RS. (2002). Suicide by Farmers in Karnataka: Agrarian Distress and Possible Alleviatory Steps. Economic and Political Weekly, 37(26):2601-10.


Doocy S, Daniels A, Packer C, et al. (2013). The Human Impact of Earthquakes: A Historical Review of Events 1980-2009 and Systematic Literature Review. PLoS Currents, 5:833.


FAO. (2015). The Impact of Disasters on Agriculture and Food Security. Rome, Italy: Food and Agriculture Organization. Accessed from: [Last accessed on 2020 Jun 03].


Fatima Z and Maqbool S. (2017). Trauma, Depression and Stress among Individuals Living in Flood Affected and Unaffected Areas. International Journal of Education and Psychological Research, 6(1):7-11.


Government of Australia. (2007). Mental Health Increased Mental Health Services for Drought-Affected Communities. Australia: Government of Australia.


Government of Myanmar. (2015). Myanmar Post-Disaster Needs Assessment of Floods and landslides, July-September 2015. Myanmar: Government of Myanmar.


Government of Nepal. (2018). Nepal Disaster Report, 2017: The Road to Sendai. Kathmandu: Government of Nepal.


Griensven VF, Chakkraband MS, Thienkrua W, et al. (2006). Mental Health Problems among Adults in Tsunami-Affected Areas in Southern Thailand. JAMA, 296(5):537-48.


Gu, D. (2019). Exposure and Vulnerability to Natural Disasters for World’s Cities. United Nations, New York, USA: Department of Economics and Social Affairs, Population Division, Technical Paper No. 4.


Guha-Sapir D, Hoyois P, and Below R. (2016). Annual Disaster Statistical Review 2015. The Numbers and Trends. Belgium: CRED.


Hamilton JP and Halvorson SJ. (2007). The 2005 Kashmir Earthquake: A Perspective on Women’s Experiences. Mountain Research and Development, 27(4):296-301.


Hansen A, Nitschke M, Pisaniello D, et al. (2011). Perceptions of Heat-Susceptibility in Older Persons: Barriers to Adaptation. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 8(12):4714-28.


Hansen A, Nitschke M, Ryan P, et al. (2008). The Effect of Heat Waves on Mental Health in a Temperate Australian City. Environmental Health Perspectives, 116(10):1369.


Hart CR, Berry HL, and Tonna M. (2011). Improving the Mental Health of Rural New South Wales Communities Facing Drought and Other Adversities. Australian Journal of Rural Health, 19(5):231-8.


Hassan FU, Singh G, and Sekar K. (2018). Children’s Reactions to Flood Disaster in Kashmir. Indian Journal of Psychological Medicine, 40:414-9.


Hayes K, Blashki G, Wiseman J, et al. Climate Change and Mental Health: Risks, Impacts and Priority Actions. International Journal of Mental Health Systems, 12:28.


Ishikawa M, Yamamoto N, Yamanaka G, et al. (2013). Disaster-Related Psychiatric Disorders among Survivors of Flooding in Ladakh, India. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 59(5):468-73.


Johnson JD. (2006). Natural Disaster and Vulnerability. Policy Brief No. 29OECD Development Center. OECD Development Center, Policy Brief No. 29.


Kalamkar SS and Shroff S. (2011). Impact of Rehabilitation Package in Suicide-Prone Districts of Vidarbha. Economic and Political Weekly, 46(5):10-3.


Kar N, Krishnaraaj R, and Rameshraj K. (2013). Long-Term Mental Health Outcomes Following the 2004 Asian Tsunami Disaster: A Comparative Study on Direct and Indirect Exposure. Disaster Health, 1(2):1-11.


Kar N, Mohapatra PK, Nayak KC, et al. (2007). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Children and Adolescents One Year after a Super- Cyclone in Orissa, India: Exploring Cross-Cultural Validity and Vulnerability Factors. BMC Psychiatry, 7:8.


Kar N. (2010). Indian Research on Disaster and Mental Health. Indian Journal of Psychiatry, 52(Suppl 1):S286-90.


Kim SH, Schneider SM, Kravitz L, et al. (2013). Mind-body Practices for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of Investigative Medicine, 61(5):827-34.


Kjellstrom T, Holmer I, and Lemke B. (2009). Workplace Heat Stress, Health and Productivity an Increasing Challenge for Low and Middle-Income Countries during Climate Change. Global Health Action, 2(1):2047.


Kobayashi M. (2014). Experience of Infrastructure Damage Caused by the Great East Japan Earthquake and Countermeasures against Future Disasters. IEEE Communications Magazine, 52(3):23-9.


Kovats RS and Hajat S. (2008). Heat Stress and Public Health: A Critical Review. Annual Review of Public Health, 29:41-55.


Lamond JE, Joseph RD, and Proverbs DG. (2015). An Exploration of Factors Affecting the Long Term Psychological Impact and Deterioration of Mental Health in Flooded Households. Environmental Research, 140:325-34.


Lock S, Rubin GJ, Murray V, et al. (2012). Secondary Stressors and Extreme Events and Disasters: A Systematic Review of Primary Research from 2010-2011. PLoS Currents, 4:24.


Math SB, Girimaji SC, Benegal V, et al. (2006). Tsunami: Psychosocial Aspects of Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Assessments and Intervention in the Early Phase. International Review of Psychiatry, 18(3):233-9.


Math SB, Tandon S, Girimaji SC, et al. (2008). Psychological Impact of the Tsunami on Children and Adolescents from the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. Primary Care Companion to the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 10(1):31.


McMichael AJ, Woodruff RE, and Hales S. (2006). Climate Change and Human Health: Present and Future Risks. The Lancet, 367(9513):859-69.


Mishra S. (2006). Farmers’ Suicides in Maharashtra. Economic and Political Weekly, 41(16):1538-45.


Mondal R, Sarkar S, Banerjee I, et al. (2013). Acute Stress-Related Psychological Impact in Children Following Devastating Natural Disaster, the Sikkim Earthquake (2011), India. Journal of Neurosciences in Rural Practice, 4(Suppl 1):S19.


Montazeri A, Baradaran H, Omidvari S, et al. (2005). Psychological Distress among Bam Earthquake Survivors in Iran: A Population-based Study. BMC Public Health, 5(1):4.


Munro A, Kovats RS, Rubin GJ, et al. (2017). Effect of Evacuation and Displacement on the Association between Flooding and Mental Health Outcomes: A Cross-sectional Analysis of UK Survey Data. Lancet Planet Health, 1(4):e134-41.


Murari KK, Ghosh S, Patwardhan A, et al. (2015). Intensification of Future Severe Heat Waves in India and their Effect on Heat Stress and Mortality. Regional Environmental Change, 15:569-79.


Murthy RS. (2018). Disaster Mental Health and Social Psychiatry: Challenges and Opportunities. Indian Journal of Social Psychiatry, 34:323-7.


Nahar N, Blomstedt Y, Wu B, et al. (2014). Increasing the Provision of Mental Health Care for Vulnerable, Disaster-Affected People in Bangladesh. BMC Public Health, 14(1):708.


NDMA. (2009a). National Disaster Management Guidelines Management of Landslides and Snow Avalanches, 2009. New Delhi: A Publication of the National Disaster Management Authority, Government of India.


NDMA. (2009b). National Disaster Management Guidelines: Psycho-Social Support and Mental Health Services in Disasters, 2009. New Delhi: A Publication of the National Disaster Management Authority, Government of India.


Nisha C, Kiran P, and Joseph B. (2014). Assessment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among Disaster Affected Children in a High School in Uttarkashi District, Uttarakhand, India. International Journal of Health System and Disaster Management, 2(4):237.


NIUA. (2016). Landslides India Urban Climate Change Fact Sheets. New Delhi: National Institute of Urban Affairs.


Padhy SK, Sarkar S, Panigrahi M, et al. (2015). Mental Health Effects of Climate Change. Indian Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, 19(1):3-7.


Parida PK. (2014). We are Living with Daily Disasters: A Study of Mental Health Consequences of Cyclone Thane. Sociological Bulletin, 63(1):77-94.


Parker M and Steenkamp D. (2012). The Economic Impact of the Canterbury Earthquakes. Reserve Bank of New Zealand Bulletin, 75(3):13-25.


Patel SK, Mathew B, Nanda A, et al. (2019). A Review on Extreme Weather Events and Livelihood in Odisha, India. Mausam, 70(3):551-60.


Patel SK. (2018a). A Qualitative Community Level Assessment of Heatwaves in Odisha: Impacts, Resilience and Policy Implications, Policy Brief. New Delhi: Population Council.


Patel SK. (2018b). A Qualitative Community Level Assessment of Droughts in Odisha: Impacts, Resilience and Policy Implications, Policy Brief. New Delhi: Population Council.


Patel SK. (2018c). A Qualitative Community Level Assessment of Floods and Cyclones in Odisha: Impacts, Resilience and Policy Implications, Policy Brief. New Delhi: Population Council.


Patra M, Tripathy S, and Jena I. (2013). Health Hazards by Sea Cyclones in Odisha, the Supercyclone and the Phailin. Odisha Review, 70(4):30-7.


Pereira BM, Morales W, Cardoso RG, et al. (2013). Lessons Learned from a Landslide Catastrophe in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. American Journal of Disaster Medicine, 8(4):253-8.


Roudini J, Khankeh HR, and Witruk E. (2017). Disaster Mental Health Preparedness in the Community: A Systematic Review Study. Health Psychology Open, 4:307.


Saatcioglu M, Ghobarah A, and Nistor I. (2005). Effects of the December 26, 2004 Sumatra Earthquake and Tsunami on Physical Infrastructure. ISET Journal of Earthquake Technology, 42(4):79-94.


Sastry N and VanLandingham M. (2009). One Year Later: Mental Illness Prevalence and Disparities among New Orleans Residents Displaced by Hurricane Katrina. American Journal of Public Health, 99(3):S725-31.


Satapathy S. (2012). Mental health impacts of disasters in India: Ex-ante and Ex-post analysis. In: Sawada Y and Oum S editors. Economic and Welfare Impacts of Disasters in East Asia and Policy Responses. ERIA Research Project Report 2011-8, Jakarta: ERIA. p425-461.


Shah B, Parhee R, Kumar N, et al. (2005). Mental Health Research in India (Technical Monograph on ICMR Mental Health Studies). New Delhi: Indian Council of Medical Research.


Sharma A. (2016). Risk of Landslides Drives Migration and Mental Health Worries. Canary Wharf, London: Reuters.


Sharma R. (2002). Gujarat Earthquake Causes Major Mental Health Problems. BMJ British Medical Journal, 324(7332):259.


Shukla J. (2013). Extreme Weather Events and Mental Health: Tackling the Psychosocial Challenge. International Scholarly Research Notices, 2013:127365.


Singh NP, Bantilan C, and Byjesh K. (2014). Vulnerability and Policy Relevance to Drought in the Semi-arid Tropics of Asia A Retrospective Analysis. Weather and Climate Extremes, 3:54-61.


Solanki R. (2016). Effect of Climate Change on Mental Health. International Journal of Indian Psychology, 3(4):304.


Srivastava M, Goel D, Semwal J, Gupta R and Dhyani M. (2015). Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in the Population of Uttarkashi, Tehri, and Pauri Garhwal India in Reference to Uttarakhand Flood-June 2013. International Journal of Health System and Disaster Management, 3(5):37.


Stanke C, Kerac M, Prudhomme C, et al. (2013). Health Effects of Drought: A Systematic Review of the Evidence. PLoS Currents, 5:1-4.


Stanke C, Murray V, Amlôt R, et al. (2012). The Effects of Flooding on Mental Health: Outcomes and Recommendations from a Review of the Literature. PLoS Currents, 4:e4f9f1fa9c3cae.


Sumantra SB and Raghunath P. (2016). Causes of Landslides in Darjeeling Himalayas during June-July, 2015. Journal of Geography and Natural Disasters, 6:173.


Swiss Re. (2016). Natural Catastrophes and Man-made Disasters in 2015: Asia Suffer Substantial Losses. Sigma No. 1, Switzerland. Available from: [Last accessed on 2020 Jan 26].


Telles S, Singh N, and Joshi M. (2009). Risk of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Depression in Survivors of the Floods in Bihar, India. Indian Journal of Medical Sciences, 63(8):330.


Telles S, Singh N, Joshi M, et al. (2010). Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms and Heart Rate Variability in Bihar Flood Survivors Following Yoga: A Randomized Controlled Study. BMC Psychiatry, 10(1):18.


Thormar SB, Gersons BP, Juen B, et al. (2010). The Mental Health Impact of Volunteering in a Disaster Setting: A Review. The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, 198(8):529-38.


Ticehurst S, Webster RA, Carr VJ, et al. (1996). The Psychosocial Impact of an Earthquake on the Elderly. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 11(11):943-951.


Trang PM, Rocklöv J, Giang KB, et al. (2016). Heatwaves and Hospital Admissions for Mental Disorders in Northern Vietnam. PLoS One, 11(5):e0155609.


Udmale P, Ichikawa Y, Manandhar S, et al. (2014). Farmers’ Perception of Drought Impacts, Local Adaptation and Administrative Mitigation Measures in Maharashtra State, India. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, 10(A):250-269.


UNDP. (2015). Preparing for Disaster: Lessons from Phailin Response. New Delhi, India: UNDP.


UNESCAP. (2015). Overview of Natural Disasters and their Impacts in Asia and the Pacific, 1970-2014. Bangkok, Thailand: United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.


UNRCO. (2017). Sri Lanka: Floods and Landslides Emergency Response Plan (June October 2017). India: UNRCO.


Van der Geest K and Schindler M. (2016). Case Study Report: Loss and Damage from a Catastrophic Landslide in Sindhupalchok District, Nepal. Report No. 17. Bonn: United Nations University Institute for Environment and Human Security.


Vijayakumar L and Kumar MS. (2008). Trained Volunteer-Delivered Mental Health Support to Those Bereaved by Asian Tsunami an Evaluation. International Journal of Social Psychiatry, 54(4):293-302.


Wang PS, Gruber MJ, Powers RE, et al. (2007). Mental Health Service use among Hurricane Katrina Survivors in the Eight Months after the Disaster. Psychiatric Services (Washington, DC), 58(11):1403-11.


Wind TR and Komproe IH. (2018). Closing the Gap between Disaster Mental Health Research and Practice: Evidence for Socio- Ecological Mental Health Interventions through Multilevel Research. Intervention, 16(1):5-13.


Wind TR, Joshi PC, Kleber RJ, et al. (2013). The Impact of Recurrent Disasters on Mental Health: A Study on Seasonal Floods in Northern India. Prehospital and Disaster Medicine, 28(3):1-7.


WMO. (2019). WMO Confirms 2019 as Second Hottest Year on Record. World Meteorological Organization, Press Release dated 6 February, 2019. Available from: [Last accessed on 2020 Jun 25].


Xu J and He Y. (2012). Psychological Health and Coping Strategy among Survivors in the Year Following the 2008 Wenchuan Earthquake. Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences, 66(3):210-9.


Yang P, Yen CF, Tang TC, et al. (2011). Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in Adolescents after Typhoon Morakot-Associated Mudslides. Journal of Anxiety Disorders, 25(3):362-368.


Yuvaraj E, Dharanirajan K, Narshimulu S, et al. (2015). Post-Disaster Assessment of Impact of Cyclone Lehar in South Andaman Island. Current Science, 108(1):85-90.


Zhang Z, Shi Z, Wang L, et al. (2011). One Year Later: Mental Health Problems among Survivors in Hard-Hit Areas of the Wenchuan Earthquake. Public Health, 125(5):293-300.

Back to top
International Journal of Population Studies, Electronic ISSN: 2424-8606 Print ISSN: 2424-8150, Published by AccScience Publishing