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Danger From Above? A Quantitative Study Of Perceptions Of Hazards From Falling Rockets In The Altai Region Of Siberia

Barbara Profeta, N. Goncharova, I. B. Kolyado, Yuryj V. Robertus, M. Mckee
Published 2010 · Psychology

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Russian rocket launch sites are inland, unlike their European and American equivalents. Those living near to fallout zones from the Baikonur cosmodrome have expressed concern about apparent high levels of psychological ill health, which they attribute to the launches, linking it to either fear of falling debris or contamination by fuel residues. The aim of the research study on which this article is based was to quantify and explain the reported ill health, relating it to exposure to, concern about, and information on the launches. Drawing on literature on social amplification of risk, a quantitative survey was conducted among 1111 adults living in three areas around the fallout area. Psychological symptoms were measured on the SCL-90 scale, with mental health assessed using the GHQ-20. Relationships were assessed using regression and path analysis. The main findings were that those people living closer to the fallout area were no more likely to have symptoms but were more concerned about launches. Prompted concern was associated with distress, assessed by SCL-90 scores (but not consistently with GHQ-20) and seemed to amplify the association between other adverse perceptions of life and symptoms. There is a high level of distress in this region but it is not obviously associated with exposure to launches. In contrast, the existing process of communicating information appears to increase concerns and thus distress.
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