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Public Health and Mental Health Implications of Environmentally Induced Forced Migration

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 March 2018

James M. Shultz*
Center for Disaster & Extreme Event Preparedness, Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, Florida
Andreas Rechkemmer
Graduate School of Social Work, University of Denver, Denver, Colorado
Abha Rai
School of Social Work, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia
Katherine T. McManus
Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, Miami, Florida
Correspondence and reprint requests to James M. Shultz, Center for Disaster & Extreme Event Preparedness, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, Miami FL 33136 (e-mail:


Climate change is increasingly forcing population displacement, better described by the phrase environmentally induced forced migration. Rising global temperatures, rising sea levels, increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters, and progressive depletion of life-sustaining resources are among the drivers that stimulate population mobility. Projections forecast that current trends will rapidly accelerate. This will lead to an estimated 200 million climate migrants by the year 2050 and create dangerous tipping points for public health and security.

Among the public health consequences of climate change, environmentally induced forced migration is one of the harshest and most harmful outcomes, always involving a multiplicity of profound resource and social losses and frequently exposing migrants to trauma and violence. Therefore, one particular aspect of forced migration, the effects of population displacement on mental health and psychosocial functioning, deserves dedicated focus. Multiple case examples are provided to elucidate this theme. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2019;13:116–122)

Policy Analysis
Copyright © Society for Disaster Medicine and Public Health, Inc. 2018 

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