Articles & Special Issues Environment & Social Development

Social Work Research and Global Environmental Change

Objective: Social workers can help mitigate the human consequences of global environmental change but need an evidence base for appropriate response strategies. This scoping review assesses the state of empirical social work research on global environmental change to identify an agenda for advancing social work research and practice in this area. Method: We searched 5 electronic databases and selected issues/articles for “social work” plus a list of global environmental change topics. Inclusion criteria were: (a) published since January 1, 1985; (b) published in a peer-reviewed journal; (c) empirical; (d) is social work research; and (e) examines at least one topic related to global environmental change. From included studies, we extracted publication year, country setting, global environmental change topic(s), explicit/implicit examination of global environmental change, research design, and study focus. We extracted practice/policy implications as a subgroup. Descriptive statistics and cross tabulations were run in SPSS 23. Results: We identified 112 studies for inclusion. About 1/3 of studies examined hurricanes and typhoons, and most were conducted in U.S., Canadian, or Asian contexts. Many described consequences or coping with change, and although more than 1/3 of studies examined a formal response/intervention, rigorous outcomes-focused research is lacking. Conclusions: Scholars should diversify the topics and global settings that they study, and they should proactively engage with populations and systems before a crisis. There is a need for intervention research on global environmental change—with more rigorous methods of outcome measurement—by social work scholars.

Project: Environment and Social Development


Mason, L. R., Shires, M. K., Arwood, C., & Borst, A. (2017). Social work research and global environmental change. Journal of the Society for Social Work and Research, 8(4), 645–672. doi:10.1086/694789