Prehospital and Disaster Medicine

Special Report

Solastalgia: Living With the Environmental Damage Caused By Natural Disasters

Sri Warsinia1 c1, Jane Millsa1 and Kim Ushera1

a1 School of Nursing, Midwifery & Nutrition, James Cook University, Cairns, Queensland, Australia

Abstract

Forced separation from one's home may trigger emotional distress. People who remain in their homes may experience emotional distress due to living in a severely damaged environment. These people experience a type of ‘homesickness’ similar to nostalgia because the land around them no longer resembles the home they knew and loved. What they lack is solace or comfort from their home; they long for the home environment to be the way it was before. “Solastalgia” is a term created to describe feelings which arise in people when an environment changes so much that it negatively affects an individual's quality of life. Such changed environments may include drought-stricken areas and open-cut mines. The aim of this article is to describe how solastalgia, originally conceptualized as the result of man-made environmental change, can be similarly applied to the survivors of natural disasters. Using volcanic eruptions as a case example, the authors argue that people who experience a natural disaster are likely to suffer from solastalgia for a number of reasons, which may include the loss of housing, livestock and farmland, and the ongoing danger of living in a disaster-prone area. These losses and fears challenge people's established sense of place and identity and can lead to feelings of helplessness and depression.

S Warsini, J Mills, K Usher. Solastalgia: living with the environmental damage caused by natural disasters. Prehosp Disaster Med. 2014:29(1);1-4 .

(Received April 04 2013)

(Revised July 17 2013)

(Accepted July 31 2013)

(Online publication January 17 2014)

Keywords

  • coping behavior;
  • environmental impacts;
  • mental health;
  • natural disasters;
  • solastalgia

Abbreviation

  • PTSD:posttraumatic stress disorder

Correspondence

c1 Correspondence: Sri Warsini, M.Med School of Nursing, Midwifery & Nutrition James Cook University PO Box 6811 Cairns, 4870, Qld Australia E-mail sri.warsini@my.jcu.edu.au