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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

BU Explores Mental Health Consequences of Disaster Cleanup Work

In the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, studies have found links between the physical health of cleanup workers and their mental health symptoms. But a new study co-authored by a Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researcher found that the mental health of recovery workers also is influenced by “indirect” factors, such as household income level and duration of the cleanup work.

The findings, published in the American Journal of Community Psychology, suggest that “disaster work is not a uniformly negative experience, as higher levels of household income, potentially from longer duration of cleanup work and work that involves greater exposure to oil, can have psychological benefits,” wrote the study team, which includes the BUSPH dean, Dr. Sandro Galea, also the Robert A. Knox Professor at BU.

“It is possible that efforts to boost financial compensation among workers with lower paying jobs, combined with ongoing monitoring of workers for psychiatric symptoms, could reduce the overall mental health burden of cleanup work.”

The findings also suggest that efforts to reduce physical problems during cleanup work, such as ongoing training and the use of protective equipment, could protect against post-traumatic stress, depression, and anxiety.

To read more about the study, go to: