A recent study published in Environmental Epidemiology shows that living near natural gas operations may be taking an invisible toll on our public health. The researchers connected fracking-induced earthquakes to episodes of anxiety in the nearby public.
Dr. Joan Casey, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Berkeley School of Public Health, led the research team that examined the relationship between increased seismic activity in Oklahoma since 2010 and anxiety. The team compared earthquake data with Google search-engine data related to anxiety — and found a direct relationship between the two.
In other words, more earthquakes means more people going to Google for help with their anxiety.
As the study shows, earthquakes in Oklahoma have steadily increased alongside fracking in the state. According to the 2015 U.S. Geological Survey, Oklahoma now sees more regular earthquakes than California. And scientists have pointed to wastewater injection as the culprit, which, as this study cites, has contributed to 98 percent of earthquakes in the central and eastern United States in the last decade. This part of the fracking process pumps disposal fluid deep underground, altering pressure in geological faults and spurring earthquakes in areas naturally less prone to seismicity.
Aside from possible environmental and economic impacts of such earthquakes, this study points to the often unseen effects on population psychology where these earthquakes occur.