ANU conducts nationwide survey on bushfire impacts on health and wellbeing

25 February 2021

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The Australian National University (ANU) is seeking to understand how to protect the health and wellbeing of individuals in bushfire-affected communities.

The Black Summer bushfires of late 2019 and early 2020 are among the most severe in recorded history, with 2400 homes destroyed in NSW alone, and thousands more residents displaced, many of whom are still seeking refuge and grappling with the impacts, both visible and invisible.

Researchers from the ANU say individuals, families and communities affected by bushfire and smoke exposure experienced significant distress as a result of danger, evacuation, displacement and loss – of life, property, livelihood.

They are also at increased risk of acute and long-term psychological and behavioural health problems.

Experts are calling for an urgent need to address evidence gaps relating to key risk factors for psychological ill-health.

ANU researchers are tackling this in a nationwide survey on the impacts of bushfire on health and wellbeing.

ANU researcher and clinical psychologist Dr Emily Macleod said bushfires impact the health and wellbeing of people in many ways, and the impacts can last for years.

“Experts agree that bushfire threat is increasing. We are trying to identify the factors which help people and communities be prepared for and resilient to future bushfires,” Dr Macleod said.

“The results will be used to shape strategies to support individuals and communities in the face of future bushfires, and improve patient care.”

Social connectedness and community resilience are important in facilitating recovery from natural disaster; however, dramatic changes to the environment and social landscape following bushfires mean that community structures may become fragmented or displaced.

The ANU researchers are seeking perspectives from all Australians to support this important research into bushfire impacts on health and wellbeing, affected and unaffected.

“We are very grateful for those who have already participated in the survey,” Dr Macleod said.

“Our approach is sensitive and respectful to the experiences of affected people and communities, and the responses will offer important insights and contribute to an important conversation.”

You can complete the survey here:

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