We examined community perspectives and experiences with fracking in Doddridge County, West Virginia, USA as part of a larger assessment to investigate the potential health impacts associated with fracking in neighboring Maryland, USA. In November 2013, we held two focus groups with community residents who had been impacted by fracking operations and conducted field observations in the impacted areas. Employing grounded theory, we conducted qualitative analysis to explore emergent themes related to direct and indirect health impacts of fracking. Three components of experience were identified, including (a) meanings of place and identity, (b) transforming relationships, and (c) perceptions of environmental and health impacts. Our findings indicate that fracking contributes to a disruption in residents' sense of place and social identity, generating widespread social stress. Although community residents acknowledged the potential for economic growth brought about by fracking, rapid transformations in meanings of place and social identity influenced residents' perceptions of environmental and health impacts. Our findings suggest that in order to have a more complete understanding of the health impacts of fracking, future work must consider the complex linkages between social disruption, environmental impacts, and health outcomes through critical engagements with communities undergoing energy development.
Keywords: Energy development; Fracking; Health impacts; Qualitative research; Sense of place; Social and psychological stress; US.
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