Home is Restoration: Towards a Health-Based Model of the Importance of Home for Survivors of Natural Disasters

34 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2022 Publication Status: Published

See all articles by Marta Delgado

Marta Delgado

University of California, Berkeley


Something fundamental for health lies in the relationship between individuals and their homes, and it is missed by entire populations after destructive natural disasters. Although previous research has verified the importance of home to the psychological and physiological well-being of adults in normal conditions, natural disaster recovery plans still ignore the impact that recreating a sense of home in transitional and permanent relocation environments can have in the relief of stress and depression of the displaced people. This exploratory study draws upon the theory of embodied cognition to explain the interrelationship between home environments and physical and psychological restoration. Through a phenomenologically based analysis of in-depth interviews with five survivors of the 2018 Paradise Camp Fire, a review of the literature on home, and empirical evidence and theory from the cognitive sciences, an enriched definition of home is formulated on the basis that the pleasant feelings of home are a result of the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, a physiological restorative process that is associated with environmental cues and is impaired in no-home environments. The provisional findings of this study suggest that improving access to suitable homes can be an effective non-invasive measure to prevent long-term negative health effects of relocation after a natural disaster, and that displaced individuals should always be involved in the decision-making about relocation and rebuilding. For that purpose, this study proposes a thirteen-topic survey to identify the themes that can provide a sense of home to each individual affected by displacement.

Funding Information: : This research did not receive any specific grant from funding agencies in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.

Conflict of Interests: None.

Ethical Approval: The UC Berkeley Committee for the Protection of Human subjects reviewed and approved the research protocol (IRB-2019-11-12726).

Keywords: relocation, disaster, Home, Health, Restoration, Embodied cognition

Suggested Citation

Delgado, Marta, Home is Restoration: Towards a Health-Based Model of the Importance of Home for Survivors of Natural Disasters. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=4217060 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.4217060

Marta Delgado (Contact Author)

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

United States

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