Psychosocial impacts of the lack of access to water and sanitation in low- and middle-income countries: a scoping review
The lack of access to safe water and adequate sanitation has implications for the psychosocial well-being of individuals and households. To review the literature on psychosocial impacts, we completed a scoping review of the published literature using Medline, Embase, and Scopus. Fifteen studies met the inclusion criteria and were reviewed in detail. Of the included studies, six were conducted in India, one in Nepal, one in Mexico, one in Bolivia, two in Ethiopia, one in Zimbabwe, one in South Africa, and two in Kenya. Four interrelated groups of stressors emerged from the review: physical stressors, financial stressors, social stressors, and stressors related to (perceived) inequities. Further, gender differences were observed, with women carrying a disproportionate psychosocial burden. We argue that failure to incorporate psychosocial stressors when estimating the burden or benefits of safe water and sanitation may mask an important driver of health and well-being for many households in low- and middle-income countries. We propose further research on water-related stressors with particular attention to unique cultural norms around water and sanitation, short and long term psychosocial outcomes, and individual and collective coping strategies. These may help practitioners better understand cumulative impacts and mechanisms for addressing water and sanitation challenges.