Researchers have long identified the ability of secondary stressors to have impacts on people's wellbeing and mental health that are similar to the direct effects of major incidents (e.g., emergencies, disasters, infectious disease outbreaks, and conflicts) experientially, and in respect of their prevalence and the strain on services. But there is a lack of clarity about the nature of secondary stressors that can hinder efforts to mitigate their effects. We develop a new theoretical approach in this article. We argue that most secondary stressors are a function of: 1. Social factors and people's life circumstances (that include the policies, practices, and social, organisational, and financial arrangements) that exist prior to and impact them during the major incident; and/or 2. Societal and organisational responses to an incident or emergency. We show that this conceptual framework makes sense of the evidence from different domains and represents a more coherent approach than do previous definitions. We present a worked example from our research on the psychosocial effects on healthcare staff of the COVID-19 pandemic that was declared by the World Health Organization in 2020. We argue that our social model enables a holistic approach to conceptualising and intervening to remedy many of the longer-term and widespread negative psychosocial effects of disasters, conflicts and infectious diseases.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information: RA is supported by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit (NIHR HPRU) in Emergency Preparedness and Response, a partnership between Public Health England, King's College London and the University of East Anglia and the NIHR HPRU in Behavioural Science and Evaluation, a partnership between Public Health England and the University of Bristol. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NIHR, Public Health England or the Department of Health and Social Care.
Open Access: No Open Access licence
Publisher Copyright: © 2021 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Citation: Richard Williams, Evangelos Ntontis, Khalifah Alfadhli, John Drury, Richard Amlôt, A social model of secondary stressors in relation to disasters, major incidents and conflict: Implications for practice, International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, Volume 63, 2021, 102436, ISSN 2212-4209.
- Healthcare staff
- Major incidents
- Primary stressors
- Secondary stressors