Social consequences of planned relocation in response to sea level rise: impacts on anxiety, well-being, and perceived safety

BY Mumuni Abu, Stacey C Heath, W. Neil Adger, Samuel Nii Ardey Codjoe, Catherine Butler and Tara Quinn
12 / 02 / 2024
This is one of the many tiny Fiji mangrove atolls that will disappear as Climate Change raises the sea level. For mangroves, sea level rise is the biggest climate-related threat, with some tree species unable to tolerate the influx of saltwater or escape the surging. Image credit: Ted McGrath via Flickr, licenced under: CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 DEED

Governments globally are adapting to sea level rise through a range of interventions to improve everyday lives of communities at risk. One prominent response is planned relocation, where people and communities are enabled to move from localities exposed to coastal erosion and inundation as a result of sea level rise. Managed retreat has significant social consequences including under-reported impacts on health, well-being and social identity. Here we adopt well-established measures of well-being and document the outcomes of planned relocation on well-being in the Volta Delta region of Ghana. Data from a bespoke survey for individuals (n = 505) in relocated and non-relocated communities demonstrate that planned relocation negatively impacts well-being and anxiety of those relocated when compared to a community that is equally exposed but has not moved. Individuals in the relocated community reported significantly lower levels of overall wellbeing, significantly higher levels of anxiety, and lower perceptions of safety, compared to non-relocated community members. These outcomes are explained as being related to the disruption of community connection, identities, and feelings of efficacy. Relocated community members reported significantly lower levels of attachment to the local area and home, significantly lower levels of community-based self-efficacy, and significantly lower levels of overall community-based identity. The results demonstrate that planned relocation to address sea level rise has multiple social consequences with outcomes for well-being that are not straightforwardly related to risk reduction.

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