Tom Postmes: can living in an earthquake zone make you sick?
Can living in an earthquake zone make you sick?
When we read in 2014 that people thought they were getting sick from the earthquakes in the Groningen gas field, Katherine Stroebe and I asked ourselves: is that true?
In 2015, the National Coordinator Groningen asked us to investigate the impact on the residents of the area. It appeared that multiple damage can be the prelude to what journalists called ‘earthquake stress’. Injustice and mistrust play a role; but feeling unsafe is the main problem. In addition to the risk of collapse, this involves fear of quakes getting worse and practical problems regarding renovating, relocating or financial consequences. The lengthy bureaucracy and legal procedures bring people down even further.
The biggest eye-opener was the scope. Of the 100,000 residents with multiple damage, 50,000 feel unsafe and have about 10,000 health complaints. This is twice as many as similar groups in other areas. These new insights influenced local policy and played a role nationally in the decision to close the gas tap.
It’s vital therefore to make sure that these results are correct. Three independent investigations confirmed the central conclusions. We found that stress and feeling unsafe go hand in hand with actual problems. We observed that what people perceived during the quake of Zeerijp (2018) corresponds exactly to the ‘hard measurements’ of the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute (KNMI). When Groningen residents first felt a really violent earthquake on 30 March 1976, there was no measuring equipment yet. In hindsight, authorities and experts should have listened more closely and earlier to the observations and experiences of everyday people.
|Last modified:||03 September 2019 10.39 a.m.|