Psychological responses and resilience of people and communities impacted by the deepwater horizon oil spill.

J. Glenn Morris, Lynn M. Grattan, Brian M. Mayer, Jason K. Blackburn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

51 Scopus citations


On April 20, 2010, the BP Deepwater Horizon oil platform in the United States Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing 11 persons and resulting in a 5-month spill of more than 206 million gallons of oil, affecting more than 950 miles of shoreline. Our initial studies in Baldwin County, Alabama, and Franklin County, Florida, conducted while the oil spill was still in progress, showed high levels of clinically significant anxiety and depression in persons living in coastal communities. Income loss was the most significant driver of anxiety and depression, rather than direct influx or contact with oil. Ongoing studies of these groups and their communities have been conducted under the auspices of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) Deepwater Horizon Research Consortium. A year after the spill, there was no significant change in levels of anxiety or depression in our cohort. Income loss continued to be associated with higher levels of psychopathology; findings were not associated with age, gender, education, or psychiatric history. Media exposure was associated with persistent hyperarousal. Findings support a model of chronic psychological disruption after the oil spill disaster. Community studies underscored the "corrosive" nature of this type of man-made disaster (as compared with natural disasters that have hit the region), with particular concerns expressed about the compensation process administered by British Petroleum and the parties that followed. Our research highlights the very real and long-lasting impact of such disasters on individuals and communities, extending well beyond the areas where there was direct exposure to oil.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-201
Number of pages11
JournalTransactions of the American Clinical and Climatological Association
StatePublished - 2013

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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