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Article

A Changing Home: A Cross-Sectional Study on Environmental Degradation, Resettlement and Psychological Distress in a Western German Coal-Mining Region

Institute for Occupational, Social, and Environmental Medicine, Medical Faculty, RWTH Aachen University, Pauwelsstrasse 30, 52070 Aachen, Germany
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Academic Editors: Gregory Bratman and Jennifer D. Roberts
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19(12), 7143; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19127143
Received: 16 May 2022 / Revised: 6 June 2022 / Accepted: 8 June 2022 / Published: 10 June 2022
Unwelcome environmental changes can lead to psychological distress, known as “solastalgia”. In Germany, the open-pit mining of brown coal results in environmental changes as well as in the resettlement of adjacent villages. In this study, we investigated the risk of open-pit mining for solastalgia and psychological disorders (e.g., depression, generalized anxiety and somatization) in local communities. The current residents and resettlers from two German open-pit mines were surveyed concerning environmental stressors, place attachment, impacts and mental health status. In total, 620 people responded, including 181 resettlers, 114 people from villages threatened by resettlement and 325 people from non-threatened villages near an open-pit mine. All groups self-reported high levels of psychological distress, approximately ranging between 2–7.5 times above the population average. Respondents from resettlement-threatened villages showed the worst mental health status, with 52.7% indicating at least moderate somatization levels (score sum > 9), compared to 28% among resettlers. We observed a mean PHQ depression score of 7.9 (SD 5.9) for people from resettlement-threatened villages, 7.4 (SD 6.0) for people from not-threatened villages, compared to 5.0 (SD 6.5) for already resettled people (p < 0.001). In conclusion, the degradation and loss of the home environment caused by open-pit mining was associated with an increased prevalence of depressive, anxious and somatoform symptoms in local communities. This reveals a need for further in-depth research, targeted psychosocial support and improved policy frameworks, in favor of residents’ and resettlers’ mental health. View Full-Text
Keywords: solastalgia; environmental change; place attachment; home environment; mental health; psychological stress; depression; coal mining; relocation solastalgia; environmental change; place attachment; home environment; mental health; psychological stress; depression; coal mining; relocation
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MDPI and ACS Style

Krüger, T.; Kraus, T.; Kaifie, A. A Changing Home: A Cross-Sectional Study on Environmental Degradation, Resettlement and Psychological Distress in a Western German Coal-Mining Region. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2022, 19, 7143. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19127143

AMA Style

Krüger T, Kraus T, Kaifie A. A Changing Home: A Cross-Sectional Study on Environmental Degradation, Resettlement and Psychological Distress in a Western German Coal-Mining Region. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022; 19(12):7143. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19127143

Chicago/Turabian Style

Krüger, Theresa, Thomas Kraus, and Andrea Kaifie. 2022. "A Changing Home: A Cross-Sectional Study on Environmental Degradation, Resettlement and Psychological Distress in a Western German Coal-Mining Region" International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health 19, no. 12: 7143. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph19127143

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