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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Columbia: Fracking Activities May Contribute to Anxiety and Depression During Pregnancy

A new study at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health identifies a link between proximity to hydraulic fracking activities and mental health issues during pregnancy. Results are in the journal Environmental Research.

Researchers looked at 7,715 mothers without anxiety or depression at the time of conception, who delivered at the Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania between January 2009 and January 2013.  They compared women who developed anxiety or depression during pregnancy with those who did not to see if their proximity to hydraulic fracturing activity played a role.

They found that for every 100 women, 4.3 additional women would experience anxiety or depression if they lived in the highest quartile of exposure compared to the other quartiles.  Prevalence of anxiety or depression during pregnancy was 15 percent in the highest quartile, compared to 11 percent in the lower three quartiles. The risk appeared greater among mothers receiving medical assistance (an indicator of low income) compared to those who did not: the authors observed 5.6 additional cases of anxiety or depression per 100 exposed women.

First author Dr. Joan Casey, assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences, points to possible reasons why living near fracking sites could lead to mental health problems in women. “Fracking activities may act as community-level stressors by degrading the quality of the natural environment and neighborhoods, such as by the production of toxic wastewater and increases in truck traffic, leading residents to feel a lack of control that harms their health,” says Dr. Casey. “Another possibility is that air pollution from the sites could be directly contributing to mental health problems in this vulnerable population.”

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