After the Flood – The Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health and Lost Time from Work

Monday, June 11, 2018

Of all extreme weather events in Canada, flooding is currently the costliest, causing millions of dollars in property damage. Nonetheless, the impact of basement flooding on the mental health and lost time from work of impacted homeowners has been only superficially explored, until now.

New research from IC3 member Dr. Blair Feltmate and his team at the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation, supported Manulife and Intact Financial Corporation sought to address this research gap. The study quantified the health impacts to homeowners in Burlington, Ontario, following a major storm in August of 2014 when 3,500 homes were flooded. These findings are published in the report After the Flood – The Impact of Climate Change on Mental Health and Lost Time from Work.

For households that experienced basement flooding, the study indicated the following statistically significant findings:

  • Flooded household members were forced to take days off work due to flooding. More than half (56 per cent) of flooded households with at least one person working took time off work, for an average of seven days per flooded household. This is 10 times the Ontario average for non-flooded households (see Figure 1).
  • Flooded household members were still worried years after a flood event. Three years after their home was flooded, almost half (48 per cent) of respondents from flooded households were worried when it rained, compared to three percent of respondents from non-flooded households (see Figure 2).
  • Flooded household members experienced significantly higher worry and stress than non-flooded household members. Within the first 30 days of experiencing a flood, 47 per cent of flooded household members were worried and stressed, compared to 11 per cent of those who had never experienced a flood.

Figure 1: Average Number of Days Off Work Per Worker for One Month in 2014  

Figure 1

Figure 2: Responses from Flooded and Non-Flooded Households ~ 3 Years After Flood Event on How Worried They Are When it Rains 

Figure 2

“This study adds a new dimension to our understanding of the pernicious impacts of flooding – long term mental stress, combined with lost time from work, underscore the need for all levels of government to act with haste to promote home flood protection across Canada,” said Dr. Blair Feltmate, head of the Intact Centre on Climate Adaptation and a professor at the University of Waterloo’s Faculty of Environment.

This study highlights the imperative for all parties involved – homeowners, businesses and government – to take action now to reduce flood risk. For a list of flood risk resources curated by the Intact Centre, cick here.

ICCA infographic