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Earthquakes have a cumulative effect on people's health

‘People's welfare deserves more attention’
07 February 2017

The health of people in Groningen who have experienced several episodes of earthquake damage has deteriorated in recent years. Their sense of safety has improved slightly now that fewer earthquakes are occurring. These conclusions are taken from the second scientific report by Gronings Perspectief, an independent monitor of the health, sense of safety and future prospects of people living in Groningen, commissioned by the National Coordinator for Groningen. The leaders of the research, Prof. Tom Postmes and Dr Katherine Stroebe from the University of Groningen state that solutions must reach further than simply reinforcing people’s houses. ‘Focusing on people's welfare would be one solution.’

Three measurements taken between February and December 2016 show a deterioration in the health of people who experience multiple episodes of damage. Gronings Perspectief wants to monitor this development closely. Having a social network and faith in the government appear to benefit people’s health. The stronger the social network and the more faith they have in government, the better their health.

Quote from respondent: ‘I just don't feel as safe as I used to'.

There are several reasons for people not feeling safe. They relate to concerns about future earthquakes, financial worries, doubts about the integrity of the house, a lack of trust in government and fear of a catastrophe. The vast majority of people (63% to 81%) say that there are several measures that would increase their sense of safety: less drilling or a halt to drilling, an independent enquiry, clear, reliable information about safety and risks, assessments of earthquake resistance and the reinforcement of houses.

Residents started feeling safer in the course of 2016. The greatest rise in feelings of safety was seen in the area to the south of the gas field around Slochteren, Sappemeer and Siddeburen, where the drop in the number of earthquakes has increased people's sense of safety, claim the researchers.

Quote from respondent: ‘No-one can guarantee that the earthquakes will stay within safe limits. Repairing damage isn’t the same as ensuring a safe living environment.’

Prof. Tom Postmes and Dr Katherine Stroebe think that their research results create an extra task for the administrators and organizations responsible. Stroebe: ‘The social costs of drilling for gas are higher than expected. The damage is not only to the structure and value of people´s homes, but also to their health.’ Postmes: ‘It´s great that there are now fewer earthquakes and people in Groningen feel safer. It’s also great that more effort is finally being put into improving damage claims procedures, inspections and reinforcement work. But the group of people who have already experienced damage from several earthquakes is growing and their problems are becoming increasingly serious. Focusing on people's welfare would be one solution.’

Appendices: Gronings PerspectiefSummary of scientific report #2, University of Groningen,
January 2017. The pictures in this appendix may be used quoting the source. No royalties need to be paid.

Research report

Gronings Perspectief is a collaboration of researchers from the University of Groningen, the Groningen local health authority and the Research & Statistics department of the Groningen municipal authorities. The researchers were assisted by a supervisory committee comprising the Municipalities, the local health authority, Groninger Bodembeweging (special interests group), the National Coordinator Groningen, the Provinces, Veiligheidsregio (safety region), the Association of Groningen Villages and scientific experts. In April 2016, the researchers from Gronings Perspectief published their initial findings in preliminary report #1. This was followed by a full scientific report in July. Preliminary report #2 contained striking results from the second round of measurements. The researchers have now published their second full scientific report, with detailed analyses of the results of measurements two and three. All the reports are public and accessible to residents and other interested parties on the website The research will continue until the end of 2017.

Last modified:20 February 2017 09.43 a.m.
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