There is some concern that coal seam gas mining may affect health and wellbeing through changes in social determinants such as living and working conditions, local economy and the environment. The onward impact of these conditions on health and wellbeing is often not monitored to the same degree as direct environmental health impacts in the mining context, but merits attention. This study reports on the findings from a recurrent theme that emerged from analysis of the qualitative component of a comprehensive Health Needs Assessment (HNA) conducted in regional Queensland: that health and wellbeing of communities was reportedly affected by nearby coal seam gas (CSG) development beyond direct environmental impacts.
Qualitative analysis was initially completed using the Framework Method to explore key themes from 11 focus group discussions, 19 in-depth interviews, and 45 key informant interviews with health and wellbeing service providers and community members. A key theme emerged from the analysis that forms the basis of this paper. This study is part of a larger comprehensive HNA involving qualitative and quantitative data collection to explore the health and wellbeing needs of three communities living in proximity to CSG development in regional Queensland, Australia.
Communities faced social, economic and environmental impacts from the rapid growth of CSG development, which were perceived to have direct and indirect effects on individual lifestyle factors such as alcohol and drug abuse, family relationships, social capital and mental health; and community-level factors including social connectedness, civic engagement and trust.
Outer regional communities discussed the effects of mining activity on the fabric of their town and community, whereas the inner regional community that had a longer history of industrial activity discussed the impacts on families and individual health and wellbeing. The findings from this study may inform future health service planning in regions affected by CSG in the development /construction phase and provide the mining sector in regional areas with evidence from which to develop social responsibility programs that encompass health, social, economic and environmental assessments that more accurately reflect the needs of the affected communities.