Deepwater Horizon oil spill triggered harmful effects on the mental health of adolescents

A new study uncovered that the Deepwater Horizon oil spill perpetrated by the multinational oil company BP led to substantial long-term effects on the mental health of adolescents exposed to the tragedy.

The study, conducted by Columbia University, was released online in the journal Environmental Hazards.

In their recent findings, the research group at Columbia University interviewed 720 parents of children affected, either directly through physical contact with oil or indirectly through subsequent economic disparities.

Initiated in 2014 in the communities within the state of Louisiana, the interview resulted in three out of five parents confirming the existence of physical health complications among their children, while close to one-third of them had psychological adversities after the oil rig catastrophe.

According to researchers, of the vast number of physical health complaints, symptoms included headaches, dermatological conditions, and respiratory problems. The long-term effects on mental health included melancholia, anxiety, insomnia, and social deficits.

Direct exposure to the spilled oil resulted in an increase in physical health complications, more than 4 times more likely than children who were only exposed to the smell of the spilled oil.

“Both direct physical exposure and indirect economic exposure were found to be predictors of physical and mental health issues among the children,” the findings showed.

“Our findings contribute to bridge the research gap on the impacts of the direct and indirect exposures of the DHOS on the health of children. The study underscores the importance of understanding the health and recovery trajectories of children and youth exposed to disasters,” the co-authors concluded in their findings.

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