Prolonged Financial Distress After the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill Predicts Behavioral Health

  • Stacy Buckingham-Howes
  • Katherine Holmes
  • J. Glenn Morris
  • Lynn M. GrattanEmail author


The economic impact of disasters is well known; however, the link between financial loss and behavioral health problems is unknown. Participants included 198 adults of ages 21 to 82, living within 10 miles of the Gulf Coast during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and were involved in the fishing, harvesting, seafood processing, or service/tourism industries. The functional impact of financial resource loss at 2.5 years post spill was measured using the 26-item Financial Life Events Checklist (FLEC). Individuals responded to financial distress by reducing social events and utility bills and changing food-shopping habits. The FLEC significantly predicted higher drug use (Drug Abuse Screening Test), alcohol use (Alcohol Use Disorders Identification Test), mood problems (Profile of Mood States), and depressive symptoms (Beck Depression Inventory II) (p values ≤ 0.05) 4.5 years after the spill. This preliminary study supports the notion that the functional impact of financial loss has a long-term impact on behavioral health after an oil spill.



We gratefully acknowledge the support and contributions of Joe Taylor and Lori Switzer of the Franklin’s Promise Coalition. The assistance of Ryan Jollie, Darla Jones, and the Alabama Seafood Association was also greatly appreciated in this project. The contents of this paper are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official view of the NIEHS.

Funding Information

Support for this project comes from the National Institute of Environmental and Health Sciences [5-U19-ES020683].

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.


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Copyright information

© National Council for Behavioral Health 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Stacy Buckingham-Howes
    • 1
  • Katherine Holmes
    • 2
  • J. Glenn Morris
    • 3
  • Lynn M. Grattan
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Department of NeurologyUniversity of Maryland School of MedicineBaltimoreUSA
  2. 2.University of Maryland School of NursingBaltimoreUSA
  3. 3.Department of Medicine, College of Medicine, and Emerging Pathogens InstituteUniversity of FloridaGainesvilleUSA

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