Study: Pennsylvanians who live near fracking are more likely to be depressed

Kristina Marusic | Environmental Health News | 27/07/2018

Stress and depression are higher among those living closest to more and bigger wells.

People who live near unconventional natural gas operations such as fracking are more likely to experience depression, according to a new study.

For the study, which is the first of its kind and published today in Scientific Reports, researchers from the University of California at Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University looked at rates of depression in nearly 5,000 adults living in southwestern Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale region in 2015.

They found that people living near fracking-related operations are more likely to be depressed than the general population, and that stress and depression went up among people living closest to more and bigger natural gas wells.

“Previously we’ve looked at the links between unconventional natural gas development and things like asthma exacerbations, migraine headaches and fatigue,” study co-author Joan Casey, a postdoctoral scholar at UC Berkeley’s School of Public Health, told EHN. “The next step was thinking about mental health, because we had a lot of anecdotal reports of sleep disturbances and psychosocial stress related to unconventional natural gas development.”

By the end of 2015, 9,669 wells had been drilled in Pennsylvania’s Marcellus shale, and by 2016, the region led the nation in shale gas production. While there have been other small studies on the links between fracking and depression, this is the first to investigate a link between the two using a validated survey among a larger population.