Recent natural disasters in Australia: Exploring the association with men’s mental health and access to health care
Ten to Men Insights #2 Report: Chapter 4
Karlee O'Donnell, Jennifer Prattley, Clement Wong, Brendan Quinn, Rukhsana Tajin, Rebecca Jenkinson, Bosco Rowland
Ten to Men
Natural disasters occur when severe and extreme weather or climate events overwhelm a community's capacity to cope and respond. They result in widespread financial, social and health impacts that can be devastating for affected Australian families and their communities. Previous prevalence estimates have suggested that around 8% of Australians will be affected by a natural disaster in their lifetime, with men more likely to be affected than women. More up-to-date Australian estimates are needed, especially in consideration of increasing disaster incidence in Australia and the value of recent estimates in disaster planning efforts.
In this chapter, Australian men's experiences of natural disasters between July 2019 and February 2021 are investigated, with a specific focus on the mental health of disaster-affected men and their use of health care services. The focus is on large-scale natural disasters that occur rapidly, including bushfires, floods, storms and cyclones, as well as disasters that endure over a longer period, such as persistent drought.
Within the existing research on the experience and health and wellbeing outcomes of natural disasters, the focus is often on women and children as vulnerable populations. As a result, less is known about men's experience of natural disasters, including the link between disaster exposure and mental health outcomes among men, including depression and anxiety. Ten to Men (TTM) provides an opportunity to address this gap.
Further insight into the extent to which disaster-affected men access and use mental health services, and possible reasons why they may not be able to, can also be gained from TTM.
One in four Australian men were affected by a natural disaster between July 2019 and February 2021.
Bushfires were the most prevalent disaster, followed by severe storms.
Compared to those not affected by a natural disaster, men affected by bushfires were 1.3 times more likely to report moderate or severe depressive symptoms.
Likewise, men affected by cyclones were 1.6 times more likely to report mild anxiety symptoms and those affected by storms were 1.5 times more likely to report moderate or severe anxiety symptoms.
Disaster-affected men indicated a higher need for mental health care and significantly more barriers to accessing such health care than those unaffected by disaster.
Mental health consultations were significantly higher among disaster affected men, with just over 15% of men affected by one natural disaster, and 17% of men affected by two or more natural disasters reporting they had consulted counsellor, psychologist and/or psychiatrist in the previous 12 months.
Work commitments, a lack of services, cost, long wait times and practices not taking new patients were common reasons why disaster-affected men were unable to access mental health care.
The authors of this Insights #2 report chapter are extremely grateful to the many individuals and organisations who contributed to its development, and who continue to support and assist in all aspects of the Ten to Men study. The Department of Health and Aged Care commissioned and continues to fund Ten to Men. The study’s Scientific Advisory and Community Reference Groups provide indispensable guidance and expert input. The University of Melbourne coordinated Waves 1 and 2 of Ten to Men, and Roy Morgan collected the data at both these time points. The Social Research Centre collected Wave 3 data. A multitude of AIFS staff members collectively work towards the goal of producing high-quality publications of Ten to Men findings. We would also especially like to thank every Ten to Men participant who has devoted their time and energy to completing study surveys at each data collection wave
Featured image: © GettyImages/Shmenny50
Jenkinson, R., O’Donnell, K., Prattley, J., Quinn, B., Rowland, B., Tajin, R., & Wong, C. (2022). Recent natural disasters in Australia: Exploring the association with men’s mental health and access to healthcare. In B. Quinn, B. Rowland, & S. Martin (Eds.), Insights #2 report: Findings from Ten to Men – The Australian Longitudinal Study on Male Health 2013-21. Melbourne: Australian Institute of Family Studies.
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