Perhaps later than in other countries, the psychological impacts of climate change are slowly gaining recognition and attention in Germany. Though climate anxiety, or “Klimaangst” is more prevalent in the media, the impacts of Extreme Weather Events (EWE – e.g. damaging storms, fires, floods) on psychological well-being are also growing as a focus of research as the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events increase. A study published in the Bundesgesundheitsblatt found that anxiety disorders, symptoms of depression, behavioural disorders and posttraumatic stress and can be observed in children and adolescents after an extreme weather event. Empirical findings on the prevalence of such mental health effects as a result of EWEs and their effects, and which risk factors are important. There is thus still considerable need for research internationally and especially in Germany.
At the federal level, psychological effects of extreme events are mentioned once in the last Climate Change Monitoring Report but not included in health or disaster-related adaptation recommendations. Within climate change adaptation policy documents, mental health is only mentioned briefly in three of sixteen states’ strategies, most often as impacted by damaging flood events.
Our research focuses on the state of Saxony-Anhalt, where severe flooding occurred in 2002 and 2013. Saxony-Anhalt’s most recent climate change adaptation strategy mentions the negative psychological impacts of extreme events, such as flooding or heat waves, but has not developed measures to prepare or adapt. However, the state report following 2013 floods does call for the use of donations in response to flood damage for “psychosocial support” and advice for citizens affected by flood events.