Flooding has adverse effect on well-being and mental health

Article date: 1 November 2016

  • Aviva to provide workshops to frontline claims teams on psycho-social impact of floods

Following the devastating floods of last winter, Aviva, the UK’s largest insurer, is launching a series of initiatives to improve its claims service to help recognise the emotional impact of flooding on customers and frontline claims people.

According to research by the University of Exeter*, flooding can have a long term impact on the well-being and mental health of those affected, with time out of the home being a key factor. The University survey showed that those who were evacuated and had to leave their homes suffered significantly lower well-being scores than those who weren’t.

Asked to rank their well-being both during and a year after the floods, (on a scale of 0-10 0=low, 10=high), evacuated respondents rated their well-being at an average of 4.6 during the floods compared to 6.8 for those who remained in their properties. The research also revealed that length of time out of homes, uncertainty about when they would be able to return, and stress relating to managing the repair process at a distance, were all cited as important issues affecting people’s well-being in the short and longer term following a flood.

Rob Townend, UK claims director at Aviva, said: “Flooding is one of the most traumatic events which can happen to a homeowner and this research shows the effects can be long-lasting.

“Last winter we received over 2,000 flood claims and we were the first insurer on the ground in many areas, ready to help customers with advice and making claims. Helping customers when they need us most is what we’re here for and we want to improve on the great work our teams did last year, in particular around helping to recognise the stress that floods that cause.”

To help customers Aviva has introduced a number of initiatives, including:

• Providing Aviva ‘psycho-social support’ workshops for frontline claims teams as part of the insurer’s partnership with British Red Cross.
• Providing access to ‘Support for Children & Young People after Flooding’ training, provided by the British Damage Management Association (BDMA)
• Providing dedicated flood emergency advice and information about flood resilience and resistance on Aviva’s online weather hub
• Continuing its support of the British Red Cross emergency app to provide people with real time location specific flood and severe weather alerts.
Claims process
• Improving the drying out process by better aligning equipment to each claim
• Reducing the environmental impact of claims** – reducing carbon emissions for severe flood claims by around 50% through more efficient energy use and travel

Townend added: “Floodwater can cause significant damage to properties; the water itself is often contaminated with raw sewage and the drying out and restoration process can often take many months. But we’re improving the drying out process and avoiding unnecessary stripping of properties so homeowners can get back in their homes sooner.

Time away from home a key factor in well-being
Catherine Butler from University of Exeter said; “Our research highlights the serious impacts of floods for people’s mental health and well-being. Being out of your home and separated from all of your possessions, as well as potentially distanced from your community at a time when you are most in need of support, are major factors in the emotional distress, anxiety, and stress that floods result in. Finding ways to ensure people can return to their homes quickly and resume their lives is vital to reducing the impacts that floods have.”

Townend said: “While some homeowners are able to stay at home and move to a higher floor while repair work takes place, often homeowners may need to move out to alternative accommodation, which can be stressful. The research highlights some of the impacts of this on families and the disruption it can cause with homeowners often having to ‘re-learn’ their homes when they move back in.

“Flooding can also have a huge impact on support workers and emergency services who are often dealing with traumatic and difficult situations for sustained periods. Our own claims teams are on the ground from the moment floods strike and they stay with communities for many weeks and months afterwards, helping customers deal with the aftermath of flooding. That’s why we’ve teamed up with British Red Cross to provide workshops for our claims people to help them better identify the emotional impacts of floods on customers, as well as give them advice on how to recognise and manage their own well-being and mental health.”

For more information about flooding visit the Aviva website

More information about the University of Exeter research is available at: http://geography.exeter.ac.uk/winterfloods/about/

You can hear Catherine Butler from the University of Exeter talking about the research here and Rob Townend from Aviva here


If you are a journalist and would like more information please contact:
Liz Kennett: 01603 685461/07800 692675 or liz.kennett@aviva.com

Notes to editors:
* C Walker-Springett,K Adger, W.N.Evans, L & O’Neill, S 2016. Social and Political Dynamics of Flood Risk, Recovery and Response: University of Exeter
**‘Carbon Reductions from New Insurance Processes Report’ by Carbon Trust for Aviva April 2016

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