Drought is thought to impact upon the mental health of agricultural communities, but studies of this relationship have reported inconsistent results. A source of inconsistency could be the aggregation of data by a single spatiotemporal unit of analysis, which induces the modifiable areal and temporal unit problems. To investigate this, mental health-related emergency department (MHED) presentations among residents of the Wheat Belt region of Western Australia, between 2002 and 2017, were examined. Average daily rainfall was used as a measure of drought. Associations between MHED presentations and rainfall were estimated based on various spatial aggregations of underlying data, at multiple temporal windows. Wide variation amongst results was observed. Despite this, two key features were found: Associations between MHED presentations and rainfall were generally positive when rainfall was measured in summer months (rate ratios up to 1.05 per 0.5 mm of daily rainfall) and generally negative when rainfall was measured in winter months (rate ratios as low as 0.96 per 0.5 mm of daily rainfall). These results demonstrate that the association between drought and mental health is quantifiable; however, the effect size is small and varies depending on the spatial and temporal arrangement of the underlying data. To improve understanding of this association, more studies should be undertaken with longer time spans and examining specific mental health outcomes, using a wide variety of spatiotemporal units.
|Number of pages||15|
|Journal||International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health|
|Publication status||Published - 1 Feb 2021|