The majority of Australia's coal seam gas (CSG) reserves are in Queensland, where the industry has expanded rapidly in recent years. Despite concerns, health data have not been examined alongside CSG development. This study examined hospitalisation rates as a function of CSG development activity in Queensland, during the period 1995-2011. Admissions data were examined with CSG well numbers, which served as a proxy for CSG development activity. Time series models were used to assess changes in hospitalisation rates for periods of "low", "medium", "high", and "intense" activity compared to a period of "very low" activity, adjusting for covariates. "All-cause" hospitalisation rates increased monotonically with increasing gas well development activity in females (324.0 to 390.3 per 1000 persons) and males (294.2 to 335.4 per 1000 persons). Hospitalisation rates for "Blood/immune" conditions generally increased for both sexes. Female and male hospitalisation rates for "Circulatory" conditions decreased with increasing CSG activity. Hospitalisation rates were generally low for reproductive and birth outcomes; no clear associations were observed. This study showed some outcomes were associated with increasing CSG development activity. However, as a condition of data access, the population and outcomes were aggregated to a broad geographic study area rather than using higher geographic resolution data. Higher resolution data, as well as other data sources, should be explored. Further research should be conducted with an expanded time period to determine if these trends continue as the industry grows.
Keywords: Queensland; coal seam gas; environmental health; hospital admissions; time series; unconventional natural gas.