The experience of living on contaminated land and its effect on mental health and notions of home

Mr Rupert Legg1

1Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney, Ultimo, Australia


Environmental contamination poses considerable risk to the health and wellbeing of residents living in its close proximity. Attention to date has mostly been on the quantifiable physiological and biological effects that exposure produces, yet less is known about the experience of living in an affected area and the indirect, subjective impacts this has on mental health. Adding to this area of inquiry, this paper questions how notions of the home change and affect mental health after an awareness of the contamination. By conducting a narrative review of the literature, research that has investigated the correlation between living on contaminated land and mental health outcomes was collated. The results highlighted a number of factors that have been observed to exacerbate psychological symptoms, including sense of place, home ownership and knowledge of the contamination. These factors are then extended to a consideration of whether people are likely to want to move away from their homes once they become aware of contamination, a question yet to be examined in any great detail in the literature. This review concludes by suggesting further empirical research is conducted on the relationship between mental health, contaminated land and the home/house.


Rupert Legg is a PhD Candidate at the Institute for Sustainable Futures, University of Technology Sydney. He is interested in the health and wellbeing effects of environmental hazards and what can be done to minimise the risks they pose.


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