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Oil spill made community more stressful

Recreational fishermen have returned to Grand Isle, Louisiana, April 18, 2011, a year after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 men working on the platform and caused an underwater leak that gushed 53,000 barrels of oil a day for three months. UPI/A.J. Sisco.
Recreational fishermen have returned to Grand Isle, Louisiana, April 18, 2011, a year after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon killed 11 men working on the platform and caused an underwater leak that gushed 53,000 barrels of oil a day for three months. UPI/A.J. Sisco. | License Photo

BATON ROUGE, La., Oct. 11 (UPI) -- It's believed many thrive if they share a strong sense of community, but those most attached had a harder time after the BP oil spill, U.S. researchers say.

Sociologists Matthew Lee and Troy Blanchard of Louisiana State University report individuals who have a stronger sense of attachment to their community exhibited higher self-reported levels of anxiety, worry, nervousness and fear during the oil spill and cleanup.

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More than 900 household respondents in Lafourche, Terrebonne and Plaquemines parishes in coastal Louisiana were surveyed from June 16 and July 1, 2010, while the oil was still flowing under the gulf.

The authors suggested that under normal conditions, attachment to community provides avenues for social support and a positive sense of having a place to call home, but under certain conditions, the strong attachments to community increase stress and other negative emotional states.

When the resource base is threatened -- for example fisheries being contaminated or closed -- high levels of community attachment often anchor people so strongly to their place of residence that they would be unwilling to move to find another place to make a living, the researchers said.

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In addition, people who are strongly attached to their communities also tend to know lots of other people in their community so they end up interacting regularly with other people who are also worried, angry and fearful which could create a self-reinforcing cycle of stress and anxiety, Lee and Blanchard said.

The finding was published in the journal American Behavioral Scientist.

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