Causal pathway diagram illustrating the mental health outcomes of economic effects of drought.

Working with colleagues at Emory University, CICS-NC’s Jesse Bell contributed to a recent paper on the impacts of drought on mental health. After performing a systematic review of existing literature, the team synthesized the results to construct a series of diagrams illustrating the causal pathways through which drought can affect mental health.

The authors found that the strongest support in the literature was related to the economic impacts of drought on individuals and communities. For example, drought can directly affect agricultural production, which in turn can cause financial and employment stresses, food access limitations, and migrations away from drought-prone areas—these in turn have mental health consequences.

The authors suggest several uses for these causal diagrams, including helping public health planners prepare for problems, watch for warning signs, and identify and assess vulnerable populations. They may also help guide future research efforts.

Vins, H., J. Bell, S. Saha, and J. J. Hess, 2015: The Mental Health Outcomes of Drought: A Systematic Review and Causal Process Diagram. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 12.