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Scientists reveal significant mental disorders in a Spanish community after severe flood

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The study was conducted by an international team of professionals from the Health Management Field of Northern Almeria (Área de Gestión Sanitaria Norte de Almería), as well as from the Universities of Granada, Castilla-La Mancha, Málaga and Cambridge

Their work, published in the journal Public Health, gathered results of a project performed after severe floods occurred in Eastern Almeria, an area seriously affected by the storm, in September of 2012

An international team of scientists has for the first time associated the emergence of mental disorders in this population after the severe flood.

The research team is made up of professionals from the Health Management Field of Northern Almeria (Área de Gestión Sanitaria Norte de Almería), led by Andrés Fontalba Navas, head of research, as well as from the Universities of Granada (Juan Pedro Arrebola), Castilla-La Mancha (Manuel Lucas Borja), Málaga (Jose Miguel Pena Andreu) and Cambridge (Jesús Pérez).

Their work, published in the journal Public Health, collected the results of a project conducted after severe floods occurred in Eastern Almeria [Spain] in September of 2012, an area that was left severely affected by the storm.

In order to carry out this work, the researchers first conducted a study of extreme rainfalls from 1935 to 2012, with the help of a geographic information system, which showed extremely high precipitation occurring in 2012.

The objective of this study was to determine the incidence of post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in this population, exposed to an extraordinary event of torrential rainfalls and a large flood in 2012. To this end, a team of primary care doctors, coordinated by Virginia Gil Aguilar, interviewed those seen in Primary Care in the affected area.

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is a condition that arises as a delayed or late response to a stressful event or an extremely life-threatening or catastrophic situation (short or long).

Lead author of this study, researcher Andrés Fontalba, commented that the incidence of mental disorders increased considerably after the flood. He went on to state that these disorders can persist for a while after the event, highlighting the importance of planning and giving efficient responses and opportunities in health.

The researchers found that the factor with the greatest impact on post-traumatic stress disorder occurrence in the community studied was the economic loss related to the disaster. Juan Pedro Arrebola, researcher from the University of Granada and the Biosanitary Research Institute of Granada and co-author of this study, indicated that this type of study is very important in identifying groups that are especially vulnerable to these catastrophes and helps establish more suitable preventive measures.

The researchers noted that the key is focusing on possible preventive and intervention procedures. Not surprisingly, reforestation measures have been the most widely used methods to control floods and diminish sediments deposited by the water basins affected by extreme precipitation events.

Trees facilitate the interception and infiltration of water in the soil and diminish runoff. Given all of this and taking into account the effect that floods have on mental health, these are more than appropriate measures to mitigate the effects of flooding.

Bibliographical Reference:

Incidence and risk factors for post-traumatic stress disorder in a population affected by a severe flood

A. Fontalba-Navas, M.E. Lucas-Borja, V. Gil-Aguilar, J.P. Arrebola, J.M. Pena-Andreu, J. Perez

Public Health

Volume 144, March 2017, Pages 96–102

Attached images:

Inundaciones Almería 2012

   In the picture, severe floods that occurred in Vera (Almeria) in September of 2012  



Juan Pedro Arrebola

Department of Radiology and Physical Medicine at the University of Granada

Telephone: (+34) 958 240 758


Andrés Fontalba

Mental Health Coordinator. Head of Research AGSNA.

Health Management Field of Northern Almeria. Andalusian Health Service.