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Survey: Most Australians affected by natural disasters since 2019

A majority of Australians have been directly affected by a natural disaster since 2019, a survey said.

Drought in Australia
Drought in New South Wales, Australia

The poll of more than 2,000 people was published by the Climate Council on Thursday, January 19, 2023.

It was found that 80 per cent of Australians have experienced at least one extreme weather event in the last three years, with heatwaves, flooding, bushfires and droughts among the most common natural disasters.

Of those affected by climate-fuelled disasters, 51 per cent said their mental health has been somewhat impacted.

While 21 per cent said experiencing an event has had a major or moderate impact on their mental well-being.

More than one-third said there was too little mental health support available to them.

Joelle Gergis, a climate scientist at the Australian National University and author of the report, described the findings as confronting.

“It’s heartbreaking to realise that many Australians are living with significant levels of distress related to the reality of our changing climate.

“It shines a light on this invisible mental health crisis that is undermining the stability of our local communities all over the country,’’ she said in a media release.

“We need to have a national conversation about climate change adaptation and listen to the experiences of people who have lived through these disasters.’’

The poll was conducted in collaboration with a leading mental health support organisation Beyond Blue.

People in rural and regional areas were more likely to experience flooding and bushfires than those in urban areas.

“By acknowledging and addressing the mental health impacts of climate change, we can build stronger and more resilient communities, better able to weather the storms.

“Both literal and figurative, that lie ahead,’’ said Grant Blashki, Beyond Blue’s Lead Clinical Advisor.

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