A systematic review of the health impacts of mass earth movements (landslides)

Iain Kennedy, Dave N. Petley, Richard Williams, Virginia Murray

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Background. Mass ground movements (commonly referred to as ‘landslides’) are common natural hazards that can have significant economic, social and health impacts. They occur as single events, or as clusters, and are often part of ‘disaster’ chains, occurring secondary to, or acting as the precursor of other disaster events. Whilst there is a large body of literature on the engineering and geological aspects of landslides, the mortality and morbidity caused by landslides is less well documented. As far as we are aware, this is the first systematic review to examine the health impacts of landslides.

Methods. The MEDLINE, EMBASE, CINAHL, SCOPUS databases and the Cochrane library were systematically searched to identify articles which considered the health impacts of landslides. Case studies, case series, primary research and systematic reviews were included. News reports, editorials and non-systematic reviews were excluded. Only articles in English were considered. The references of retrieved papers were searched to identify additional articles.

Findings. 913 abstracts were reviewed and 143 full text articles selected for review. A total of 27 papers reporting research studies were included in the review (25 from initial search, 1 from review of references and 1 from personal correspondence). We found a limited number of studies on the physical health consequences of landslides. Only one study provided detail of the causes of mortality and morbidity in relation a landslide event. Landslides cause significant mental health impacts, in particular the prevalence of PTSD may be higher after landslides than other types of disaster, though these studies tend to be older with only 3 papers published in the last 5 years, with 2 being published 20 years ago, and diagnostic criteria have changed since they were produced.

Discussion. We were disappointed at the small number of relevant studies, and the generally poor documentation of the health impacts of landslides. Mental health impacts were better documented, though some of the studies are now quite old. Further research on the health impacts of landslides needs to be undertaken to support those responding to landslide disasters and to aid disaster risk mitigation advocacy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPLoS Currents Disasters
Publication statusPublished - 30 Apr 2015

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