Oil spill psychological trauma widespread

Feb. 20, 2011 at 12:07 AM
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GAINESVILLE, Fla., Feb. 20 (UPI) -- Oil from the BP's Gulf of Mexico spill did not have to lap up on shore for people to experience elevated levels of anxiety and depression, U.S. researchers say.

Dr. J. Glenn Morris, a University of Florida public health expert, says the psychological effects of the BP oil spill extend far beyond people living in the areas of the gulf directly impacted by it.

"The findings highlight the substantial psychological impact that the oil spill has had on coastal communities in Florida and Alabama," Morris says in a statement.

"In particular, the impact was not directly related to the amount of oil that reached an area. Instead, it correlated most closely with financial loss resulting from the spill."

The researchers asked the study participants -- mostly men involved in the gulf fishing industry or those who had suffered direct financial damages because of the spill -- to answer a range of psychological questions, their finances and how well were they coping.

Among those living in Florida's Franklin County, near Tallahassee, where oil had not reached the shore, participants showed similar levels of anxiety, depression, fatigue, anger and overall mood disturbance as the citizens living in Alabama's directly affected communities -- especially if a livelihood depended on fishing.

The findings are published online ahead of print of the journal Environmental Health Perspectives

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