, Volume 1, Supplement 2, pp SU47–SU58 | Cite as

Environmental Change and Human Health in Upper Hunter Communities of New South Wales, Australia

  • Linda Connor
  • Glenn Albrecht
  • Nick Higginbotham
  • Sonia Freeman
  • Wayne Smith
Original Contribution


This article presents the theory and method informing an ongoing study of environmental change and human distress in the Upper Hunter Valley of New South Wales (NSW), Australia. The nature of environmental change in the Upper Hunter landscape over the past two centuries is first described, followed by the preliminary results of a long-term study that aims to investigate the nature of residents’ understanding of, and responses to, environmental change. Data from in-depth interviews found that the transformation of the environment from mining and power station activities was associated with significant expressions of distress linked to negative changes to interviewees’ sense of place, well-being, and control. A new concept, “solastalgia,” is introduced to help explain the relationship between ecosystem health, human health, and powerlessness. We claim that solastalgia, as opposed to nostalgia, is a type of homesickness (distress) that one gets when one is still “at home.” Future research will aim to validate a questionnaire to test the hypothesis that environmental distress is associated with levels of depression, quality of life, and rates of stress-related disease, as well as activism and environmental rehabilitation.


ecosystem health sense of place place pathology solastalgia transdisciplinarity environmental distress 



We thank the people of the Upper Hunter who so graciously shared their experiences of change with us, as well as the University of Newcastle Research Grants Committee for their financial support of this investigation.


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Copyright information

© EcoHealth Journal Consortium 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Linda Connor
    • 1
  • Glenn Albrecht
    • 2
  • Nick Higginbotham
    • 3
  • Sonia Freeman
    • 3
  • Wayne Smith
    • 3
  1. 1.School of Social ScienceThe University of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia
  2. 2.School of Environmental and Life SciencesThe University of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia
  3. 3.School of Medical Practice and Population Health, Centre for Clinical Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Faculty of HealthThe University of NewcastleCallaghanAustralia

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