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The link between mental health and safe drinking water behaviors in a vulnerable population in rural Malawi


Slekiene, Jurgita; Mosler, Hans-Joachim (2019). The link between mental health and safe drinking water behaviors in a vulnerable population in rural Malawi. BMC Psychology, 7(1):44.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Mental disorders, particularly depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, are common long-term psychological outcomes in emergency contexts arising from conflicts, natural disasters, and other challenging environmental conditions. In emergencies, people suffer not only from the lack of external resources such as drinking water and food but also from poor mental health. Mental disorders can substantially impair daily activities in vulnerable individuals. However, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) behaviors are daily activities that require effort, time, and strong internal motivation. Therefore, questions arise: whether there is a relationship between mental health and safe water behaviors, and if so, whether the motivational drivers of these behaviors are affected by mental health.

METHODS: Our cross-sectional study conducted face-to-face interviews with 638 households in rural Malawi. We used a quantitative questionnaire based on the risks, attitudes, norms, abilities, and self-regulation (RANAS) approach to measure motivational psychosocial factors. Mental health was assessed using the validated Chichewa version of the Self-Reporting Questionnaire (SRQ-20).

RESULTS: Almost a third of the respondents reported poor mental health. We found significant negative association between mental health and self-reported safe water collection (p = .01, r = -.104) but not between safe water transportation and storage behavior. The moderation analysis revealed significant interaction effects of mental health with some psychosocial factors and therefore on WASH behaviors. Poor mental health changed the influence of three psychosocial factors-perceived others' behavior, commitment, and remembering-on safe drinking water collection behavior. The influence on water transportation and storage behavior of the perceived severity of contracting a disease, the belief that transporting and storing water requires substantial effort, and others' approval depended on the mental health condition of the respondent.

CONCLUSIONS: These results imply that populations with a significant proportion of individuals with poor mental health will benefit from interventions to mitigate mental health before or parallel to behavioral change interventions for WASH. Specific population-level interventions have been shown to have a positive effect on mental well-being, and they have been successfully applied at scale. This research is especially relevant in emergency contexts, as it indicates that mental health measures before any WASH interventions will make them more effective.

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Mental disorders, particularly depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, are common long-term psychological outcomes in emergency contexts arising from conflicts, natural disasters, and other challenging environmental conditions. In emergencies, people suffer not only from the lack of external resources such as drinking water and food but also from poor mental health. Mental disorders can substantially impair daily activities in vulnerable individuals. However, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) behaviors are daily activities that require effort, time, and strong internal motivation. Therefore, questions arise: whether there is a relationship between mental health and safe water behaviors, and if so, whether the motivational drivers of these behaviors are affected by mental health.

METHODS: Our cross-sectional study conducted face-to-face interviews with 638 households in rural Malawi. We used a quantitative questionnaire based on the risks, attitudes, norms, abilities, and self-regulation (RANAS) approach to measure motivational psychosocial factors. Mental health was assessed using the validated Chichewa version of the Self-Reporting Questionnaire (SRQ-20).

RESULTS: Almost a third of the respondents reported poor mental health. We found significant negative association between mental health and self-reported safe water collection (p = .01, r = -.104) but not between safe water transportation and storage behavior. The moderation analysis revealed significant interaction effects of mental health with some psychosocial factors and therefore on WASH behaviors. Poor mental health changed the influence of three psychosocial factors-perceived others' behavior, commitment, and remembering-on safe drinking water collection behavior. The influence on water transportation and storage behavior of the perceived severity of contracting a disease, the belief that transporting and storing water requires substantial effort, and others' approval depended on the mental health condition of the respondent.

CONCLUSIONS: These results imply that populations with a significant proportion of individuals with poor mental health will benefit from interventions to mitigate mental health before or parallel to behavioral change interventions for WASH. Specific population-level interventions have been shown to have a positive effect on mental well-being, and they have been successfully applied at scale. This research is especially relevant in emergency contexts, as it indicates that mental health measures before any WASH interventions will make them more effective.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:06 Faculty of Arts > Institute of Psychology
Dewey Decimal Classification:150 Psychology
Scopus Subject Areas:Social Sciences & Humanities > General Psychology
Language:English
Date:8 July 2019
Deposited On:12 Sep 2019 10:43
Last Modified:22 Apr 2020 21:07
Publisher:BioMed Central
ISSN:2050-7283
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1186/s40359-019-0320-1
PubMed ID:31287032
Project Information:
  • : FunderBelgian Red Cross
  • : Grant ID
  • : Project Title

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