State residents living along the coast and reliant on the fishing or oil and gas industries for their livelihoods were very distressed and worried about the impact of the Deepwater Horizon 2010 oil spill on their future.

Two decades of social science research has reported that people who are more attached to their communities are better off. They are happier, less depressed and physically healthier than those who have weak attachments to their community.

But a recent study in the prominent journal American Behavioral Scientist, two LSU sociologists challenge the conventional wisdom on this score and reach a much a different conclusion, according to an LSU news release.

In one of the first publications to present systematically collected public health data on coastal populations affected by the catastrophic oil spill of 2010, LSU sociologists Matthew Lee and Troy Blanchard report that individuals having a stronger

sense of attachment to their community exhibited higher self-reported levels of anxiety, worry, nervousness and fear.

The data for their study “Community Attachment and Negative Affective States in the Context of the BP Deepwater Horizon Disaster” were collected via telephone surveys with more than 900 household respondents in Lafourche, Terrebonne and Plaquemines parishes in coastal Louisiana between June 16, 2010 and July 1, 2010, while the oil was still flowing freely.

The authors suggest that under normal conditions, attachment to community is a good thing, providing people avenues for social supports and a positive sense of having a place to call home in mass society. Under certain conditions, however, Lee and Blanchard suggest that strong attachments to community actually increases stress and other negative emotional states. This particular situation was unique because the natural resource base was threatened in a region that is heavily dependent economically on having a sound natural resource base.

When the resource base is threatened – for example fisheries being contaminated or closed – high levels of community attachment often anchor people so strongly to their place of residence that they would be unwilling to move to find another place to make a living.