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University of Newcastle (2014)

The nature of things : an interdisciplanary investigation into the experiences and impacts of drought for three generations of Australian women

Rich, Jane Louise

Titre : The nature of things : an interdisciplanary investigation into the experiences and impacts of drought for three generations of Australian women

Auteur : Rich, Jane Louise

Université de soutenance : University of Newcastle

Grade : Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) 2014

In the current context of climate change, weather temperatures and droughts are set to increase in intensity and frequency. It is unclear what the adverse health outcomes might be as a result of this experience. Some research suggests that experiences of drought challenge mental health and wellbeing and there are reports of increases in male suicide rates at that time (Hanigan, Butler, Kokic and Hutchinson 2012). What is not certain is how experiences of drought might affect women’s health and wellbeing. This is a public health thesis that draws together information from science, health, geography, and sociology to explore the lived experience of drought for three generations of Australian women. The project examines these experiences through three different studies. Firstly, a thematic analysis will explore the diversity and breadth of experiences of women in drought. Secondly, a longitudinal analysis will qualitatively explore the experiences of drought over time for Australian women and thirdly, three in-depth narratives, from telephone interviews with women, will illustrate the connections between the themes, by presenting women’s stories in the wider context of their lives. Data from the Australian Longitudinal Study on Women’s Health (ALSWH) is analysed in these three studies to explore women’s experiences of drought. This project is particularly interested in the implications of drought on the ageing and wellbeing of women. Data from three age groups of women is included in the analyses. The younger women were born between 1973-78, the mid-aged women were born between 1946-51 and the older-aged women were born between 1921-26. Three separate studies were conducted in each age group, totalling nine different analyses. The first study conducted a thematic analysis of women’s free-text comments collected by the ALSWH. The aim of this study was to assess drought in the wider context of women’s lives and to examine diversity of experiences. This thematic analysis revealed several important insights. Firstly, there are generational differences in women’s experiences of drought. Secondly, this study revealed the importance of specific events surrounding women and their life in drought, such as raising families, caring for others, and maintaining their health and community involvement. Thirdly, this analysis found that gender was an important aspect of experiences of drought. Many women-specific themes were raised. The second study aimed to uncover the longitudinal impact of living in drought. This chapter visually mapped each cohort’s survey years and free-text comments to reveal common concepts and themes from the women’s free-text comments. Leximancer software was used to assist in analysis. This study found firstly that a longitudinal lens is vital for drought research. Secondly, this study found that ageing needs to be a vital aspect of drought research. Thirdly, mental health is compromised during drought particularly when examined over time. The third study aimed to enable women to tell their story of drought, through telephone interviews. In the narrative analyses the women’s experiences were linked to quantitative health and rainfall data collected by the ALSWH. Results from this study build on the findings of the previous two studies by drawing together women’s reflections and insights. The narratives provide the links and details between themes. Results found that firstly, women have important roles, particularly in caring for their families and husbands during drought. Secondly, ageing was raised as an important theme for each cohort’s narrative. Thirdly, this chapter revealed the incredibly complex experience of drought, drought did not occur in isolation but as part of wider events in life. This project concludes that drought is a gendered experience. This project adds that both gender and ageing must be considered when planning for future droughts. Together each of these three studies provides vital contributions to the field of gender, health and drought.

Mots clés : women drought ageing qualitative longitudina


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Page publiée le 19 janvier 2015, mise à jour le 4 juillet 2017