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Exploring the sources and receptors of health impacts of drought in the UK: A narrative approach

Bryan, K; Ward, Sarah; White, M; Taylor, T; Roberts, L


K Bryan

Sarah Ward

M White

T Taylor


Drought has been found to affect human populations through reduced water quantity, water quality, food security, dust and airborne pathogens, mental health and well-being, among others. Research in this area is still in its infancy with only a handful of studies on the global health impacts of drought. The extent to which a population is vulnerable to the impacts of drought is dependent on underlying development factors including reliable water supply and distribution systems as well as a reliable health sector. As a result, resource-poor developing countries have been found to experience more frequent and severe impacts of droughts compared with developed countries. Nonetheless, developed countries like the UK are expected to be affected by more frequent and intense droughts in the future due to climate change projections thereby highlighting a health impact imperative. In this regard, it is integral that resources for knowledge exchange, capacity building, and decision-making are developed towards more resilient water management.

As such, we employ a narrative approach to bring together expert and lay/local knowledge, which are increasingly being recognized as legitimate and effective tools in decision-making, to provide context-dependent relationships and specific embodied experiences. Participants in six catchments across England, Scotland, and Wales were interviewed using a non-structured format. These interviews were recorded, transcribed, and analyzed in a source-receptor-impact framework. The two main sources of drought health impacts were from reduced water quantity and quality. The most noticeable impacts of drought were found to be related to the diminished physical and mental health and well-being of receptors such as private water supply users, outdoor recreation users, and vulnerable groups such as the elderly and children. Whilst drought might appear to present only negative connotations, it is also expected that drought will likely increase opportunities for accessing or participating in certain outdoor recreation activities such as walking, hiking, water sports, cycling, among others, all of which have been linked with positive health outcomes and positive mental health in previous research arenas.

This work presents the first narrative assessment of drought implications for health in the UK. More detailed assessments are needed to better understand the linkages and pathways through which drought might present health impacts into the future, particularly under climate scenarios. Furthermore, a joined-up narrative-science approach may prove integral to future projections of drought impacts in the health sector as well as other sectors in order to increase capacities for drought resilience.


Bryan, K., Ward, S., White, M., Taylor, T., & Roberts, L. (2018, November). Exploring the sources and receptors of health impacts of drought in the UK: A narrative approach. Paper presented at 8th International Conference on Building Resilience, Lisbon, Portugal

Presentation Conference Type Conference Paper (unpublished)
Conference Name 8th International Conference on Building Resilience
Conference Location Lisbon, Portugal
Start Date Nov 14, 2018
End Date Nov 16, 2018
Acceptance Date Nov 14, 2018
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Keywords drought, reliable water supply, resilient water management, narrative assessment, impact
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Additional Information Title of Conference or Conference Proceedings : 8th International Conference on Building Resilience