Sunday, 27 February 2011

Social, Cultural, and Psychological Impacts of the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill

Lawrence A. Palinkas A1, Michael A. Downs A2, John S. Petterson A3, John Russell A4
A1 Division of Family Medicine, Department of Community and Family Medicine, University of California, Sun Diego 92093-0807
A2 Vice President for Research, Impact Assessment, Inc., La Jolla, CA
A3  President of Impact Assessment, Inc.
A4  Scientist with Impact Assessment, Inc.
The sociocultural and psychological impacts of the Exxon Valdez oil spill were examined in a population-based study of 594 men and women living in 13 Alaskan communities approximately one year after the spill occurred. A progressive "dose-response" relationship was found between exposure to the oil spill and the subsequent cleanup efforts and the following variables: reported declines in traditional social relations with family members, friends, neighbors and coworkers; a decline in subsistence production and distribution activities; perceived increases in the amount of and problems associated with drinking, drug abuse, and domestic violence; a decline in perceived health status and an increase in the number of medical conditions verified by a physician; and increased post-spill rates of generalized anxiety disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, and depression. Alaskan Natives, women, and 18-44 year olds in the high- and low-exposed groups were particularly at risk for the three psychiatric disorders following the oil spill. The results suggest that the oil spill's impact on the psychosocial environment was as significant as its impact on the physical environment. The results also have important theoretical and pragmatic implications for the understanding and mitigation of adverse impacts of long-term processes of sociocultural change.

Alaska, disasters, psychosocial stress, sociocultural change, subsistence

The references of this article are secured to subscribers.