An Ecosystems and Vulnerable Populations Perspective on Solastalgia and Psychological Distress After a Wildfire

Abstract

We studied the relationship between psychological distress and relative resource and risk predictors, including loss of solace from the landscape (solastalgia), one year after the Wallow Fire, in Arizona, United States. Solastalgia refers to the distress caused by damage to the surrounding natural environment and it has not been examined for its relationship to psychological health. Doing so opens avenues of research that inquire into how land management might be able to support improved community resilience and psychological health outcomes after a wildfire. In 2012, we conducted a household survey mailed to all 1387 households in the five communities surrounding the fire. The Kessler Psychological Distress Scale assessed psychological distress. In the multivariate analysis, higher solastalgia score and an adverse financial impact of the fire were associated with clinically significant psychological distress. Annual household income ≥ $80,000 and a higher family functioning score were associated with less psychological distress. Part-time residents were no more likely to have psychological distress than full-time residents. We conclude that dramatic transformation of a landscape by an environmental event such as a wildfire can reduce its value as a source of solace. These results call for novel post-wildfire community recovery interventions that wed forest management and community psychology.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access.

Figure 1

References

  1. Abramson, D. M., Park, Y. S., Stehling-Ariza, T., & Redlener, I. (2010). Children as bellwethers of recovery: dysfunctional systems and the effects of parents, households, and neighborhoods on serious emotional disturbance in children after Hurricane Katrina. Disaster Med Public Health Prep, 4 Suppl 1, S17-27. doi:10.1001/dmp.2010.7

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  2. Albrecht, G., Sartore, G. M., Connor, L., Higginbotham, N., Freeman, S., Kelly, B., Stain H., Torma, A., Pollard, G. (2007). Solastalgia: the distress caused by environmental change. Australasian Psychiatry, 15, S95-S98. doi:10.1080/10398560701701288

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  3. Anderson, T. M., Sunderland, M., Andrews, G., Titov, N., Dear, B. F., & Sachdev, P. S. (2013). The 10-item Kessler psychological distress scale (K10) as a screening instrument in older individuals. American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 21(7), 596-606. doi:10.1016/j.jagp.2013.01.009

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  4. Andrews, G., & Slade, T. (2001). Interpreting scores on the Kessler Psychological Distress Scale (K10). Aust N Z J Public Health, 25(6), 494-497.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  5. Bonanno, G. A., Brewin, C. R., Kaniasty, K., & La Greca, A. M. (2010). Weighing the Costs of Disaster: Consequences, Risks, and Resilience in Individuals, Families, and Communities. Psychological Science in the Public Interest, 11(1), 1-49.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  6. Bryant, R. A., & Harvey, A. G. (1996). Posttraumatic stress reactions in volunteer firefighters. Journal of Traumatic Stress, 9(1), 51-62.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  7. Burns, M. R., Taylor, J. G., & Hogan, J. T. (2008). Integrative Healing: The importance of community collaboration in postfire recovery and prefire planning. In W. E. Martin, C. Raish & B. Kent (Eds.), Wildfire Risk: Human perceptions and management implications (pp. 81-98). Washington D.C.: Resources for the Future.

    Google Scholar 

  8. de Freitas, C. M., de Oliveira, S. G., Schutz, G. E., Freitas, M. B., & Camponovo, M. P. (2007). Ecosystem approaches and health in Latin America. Cad Saude Publica, 23(2), 283-296.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  9. Doherty, T. J., & Clayton, S. (2011). The Psychological Impacts of Global Climate Change. American Psychologist, 66(4), 265-276. doi:10.1037/A0023141

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  10. Drapeau, A., Beaulieu-Prevost, D., Marchand, A., Boyer, R., Preville, M., & Kairouz, S. (2010). A life-course and time perspective on the construct validity of psychological distress in women and men. Measurement invariance of the K6 across gender. BMC Med Res Methodol, 10, 68. doi:10.1186/1471-2288-10-68

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Google Scholar 

  11. Elliott, S. J., Taylor, S. M., Walter, S., Stieb, D., Frank, J., & Eyles, J. (1993). Modeling Psychosocial Effects of Exposure to Solid-Waste Facilities. Social Science & Medicine, 37(6), 791-804. doi:10.1016/0277-9536(93)90373-C

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  12. Flaskerud, J. H., & Winslow, B. J. (1998). Conceptualizing vulnerable populations health-related research. Nurs Res, 47(2), 69-78.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  13. Forget, G., & Sanchez-Bain, W. A. (1999). Managing the ecosystem to improve human health: integrated approaches to safe drinking water. Int J Occup Environ Health, 5(1), 38-50.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  14. Furukawa, T. A., Kessler, R. C., Slade, T., & Andrews, G. (2003). The performance of the K6 and K10 screening scales for psychological distress in the Australian National Survey of Mental Health and Well-Being. Psychol Med, 33(2), 357-362.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  15. Grievink, L., van der Velden, P. G., Stellato, R. K., Dusseldorp, A., Gersons, B. P., Kleber, R. J., & Lebret, E. (2007). A longitudinal comparative study of the physical and mental health problems of affected residents of the firework disaster Enschede, The Netherlands. Public Health, 121(5), 367-374. doi:10.1016/j.puhe.2006.09.025

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  16. Hendryx, M., & Innes-Wimsatt, K. A. (2013). Increased Risk for Depression for People Living in Coal Mining Areas of Central Appalachia. Ecopsychology, 5(4), 179-187.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  17. Higginbotham, N., Connor, L., Albrecht, G., Freeman, S., & Agho, K. (2006). Validation of an environmental distress scale. Ecohealth, 3(4), 245-254. doi:10.1007/s10393-006-0069-x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  18. Jenkins, J. L., Hsu, E. B., Sauer, L. M., Hsieh, Y. H., & Kirsch, T. D. (2009). Prevalence of Unmet Health Care needs and description of health care-seeking behavior among displaced people after the 2007 California wildfires. Disaster Med Public Health Prep, 3(2 Suppl), S24-28. doi:10.1097/DMP.0b013e31819f1afc

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  19. Kessler, R. C., Andrews, G., Colpe, L. J., Hiripi, E., Mroczek, D. K., Normand, S. L., Walters, E.E., Zaslavsky, A. M. (2002). Short screening scales to monitor population prevalences and trends in non-specific psychological distress. Psychol Med, 32(6), 959-976.

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  20. Kessler, R. C., Barker, P. R., Colpe, L. J., Epstein, J. F., Gfroerer, J. C., Hiripi, E., Howes, M.J., Normand, S.L., Manderscheid, R.W., Walters, E.E., Zaslavsky, A. M. (2003). Screening for Serious Mental Illness in the General Population. Arch Gen Psychiatry, 60(2), 184-189. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.60.2.184

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  21. Kessler, R. C., Green, J. G., Gruber, M. J., Sampson, N. A., Bromet, E., Cuitan, M., Furukawa, T.A., Gureje, O. Hinkov, Hu, C.Y., Lara, C., Lee, S., Mneimneh, Z., Myer, L. Sagar, R., Viana, M.C., Zaslavsky, A. M. (2010). Screening for serious mental illness in the general population with the K6 screening scale: results from the WHO World Mental Health (WMH) survey initiative. Int J Methods Psychiatr Res, 19 Suppl 1, 4-22. doi:10.1002/mpr.310

    PubMed  PubMed Central  Article  Google Scholar 

  22. Knowlton, K., Rotkin-Ellman, M., Geballe, L., Max, W., & Solomon, G. M. (2011). Six climate change-related events in the United States accounted for about $14 billion in lost lives and health costs. Health Aff (Millwood), 30(11), 2167-2176. doi:10.1377/hlthaff.2011.0229

    Article  Google Scholar 

  23. Marshall, G. N., Schell, T. L., Elliott, M. N., Rayburn, N. R., & Jaycox, L. H. (2007). Psychiatric disorders among adults seeking emergency disaster assistance after a wildland-urban interface fire. Psychiatr Serv, 58(4), 509-514

    Article  Google Scholar 

  24. 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. Can J Psychiatry, 50(3), 137-143.

    Google Scholar 

  25. McFarlane, A. C. (1987). Posttraumatic phenomena in a longitudinal study of children following a natural disaster. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry, 26(5), 764-769. doi:10.1097/00004583-198709000-00025

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  26. Nielsen, N. O. (2001). Ecosystem approaches to human health. Cad Saude Publica, 17 Suppl, 69-75.

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  27. Norris, F. H., Friedman, M. J., Watson, P. J., Byrne, C. M., Diaz, E., & Kaniasty, K. (2002). 60,000 disaster victims speak: Part I. An empirical review of the empirical literature, 1981-2001. Psychiatry, 65(3), 207-239.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  28. Palinkas, L. A. (2012). A conceptual framework for understanding the mental health impacts of oil spills: lessons from the Exxon Valdez oil spill. Psychiatry, 75(3), 203-222. doi:10.1521/psyc.2012.75.3.203

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  29. Rapport, D. J. (1999). Epidemiology and ecosystem health: Natural bridges. Ecosystem Health, 5(3), 174-180. doi:10.1046/j.1526-0992.1999.09927.x

    Article  Google Scholar 

  30. Ryan, R. L., & Hamin, E. (2008). Wildfires, Communities, and Agencies: Stakeholders’ Perceptions of Postfire Forest Restoration and Rehabilitation. Journal of Forestry, 106(7), 370-379.

    Google Scholar 

  31. Sartore, G. M., Kelly, B., Stain, H., Albrecht, G., & Higginbotham, N. (2008). Control, uncertainty, and expectations for the future: a qualitative study of the impact of drought on a rural Australian community. Rural and Remote Health, 8(3), 950

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

  32. Scher, C. D., & Ellwanger, J. (2009). Fire-related cognitions moderate the impact of risk factors on adjustment following wildfire disaster. J Anxiety Disord, 23(7), 891-896. doi:10.1016/j.janxdis.2009.05.007

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  33. Speldewinde, P. C., Cook, A., Davies, P., & Weinstein, P. (2009). A relationship between environmental degradation and mental health in rural Western Australia. Health Place, 15(3), 880-887. doi:10.1016/j.healthplace.2009.02.011

    Article  Google Scholar 

  34. Svendsen, E. S., Baine, G., Northridge, M. E., Campbell, L. K., & Metcalf, S. S. (2014). Recognizing resilience. Am J Public Health, 104(4), 581-583. doi:10.2105/AJPH.2013.301848

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  35. Tally, S., Levack, A., Sarkin, A., Gilmer, T., & Groessl, E. J. (2013). The Impact of the San Diego Wildfires on a General Mental Health Population Residing in Evacuation Areas. Admin Policy Ment Health, 40(5), 348-354.

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  36. Theobald, D. M. and W. H. Romme (2007). “Expansion of the US wildland–urban interface.” Landscape and Urban Planning, 83(4), 340-354.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  37. Wang, P. S., Lane, M., Olfson, M., Pincus, H. A., Wells, K. B., & Kessler, R. C. (2005). Twelve-month use of mental health services in the United States: results from the National Comorbidity Survey Replication.Arch Gen Psychiatry, 62(6), 629-640. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.62.6.629

    PubMed  Article  Google Scholar 

  38. Webb JC, Mergler D, Parkes MW, Saint-Charles J, Spiegel J, Waltner-Toews D, … Woollard RF (2010) Tools for thoughtful action: the role of ecosystem approaches to health in enhancing public health. Canadian Journal of Public Health 101(6):439–441

  39. Westerling, A. L., Hidalgo, H. G., Cayan, D. R., & Swetnam, T. W. (2006). Warming and earlier spring increase western US forest wildfire activity. Science, 313(5789), 940-943. doi:10.1126/science.1128834

    PubMed  CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  40. Winkler, R., Field, D. R., Luloff, A. E., Arannich, R. S., & Williams, T. (2007). Social landscapes of the inter-mountain west: A comparison of ‘old west’ and ‘new west’ communities. Rural Sociology, 72(3), 478-501. doi:10.1526/003601107781799281

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Acknowledgments

Funding provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Forest Service, Award #09-JV-11242309-042. We also thank Greg Winter, Cornerstone Strategies Inc. and Kellie Monterrosa, M.B.A., Apache County Department of Public Health.

Author information

Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to David Eisenman.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Eisenman, D., McCaffrey, S., Donatello, I. et al. An Ecosystems and Vulnerable Populations Perspective on Solastalgia and Psychological Distress After a Wildfire. EcoHealth 12, 602–610 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10393-015-1052-1

Download citation

Keywords

  • wildfire
  • mental health
  • solastalgia
  • disaster
  • resilience
  • climate change