How Information Factors and Attitudes Relate to Symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder: The Role of Uncertainty in the Case of Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

Zhiwen Xiao, Jaesub Lee


The Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the largest in U.S. history, has impacted communities and residents, near and far, in numerous ways. This study proposed and tested a conceptual framework to examine the extent to which (a) information factors (sufficiency, repertoires, similarity, and sensitivity) and attitudes (feeling efficacious in seeking information and willingness/motivation to accept information) are associated with uncertainties in communities during the oil spill and (b) uncertainties, in turn, lead to symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after the spill. A cross-sectional survey study (N = 240) was conducted in the Houston Ship Channel area. Structural equation modeling was used to test the hypothesized conceptual model. Information sufficiency, information similarity, willingness to accept information, and efficacy in information seeking were significant predictors of uncertainty. These predictors explained 30.4% variances of uncertainty. Uncertainty was, in turn, a significant predictor of symptoms of PTSD. Current findings signify the importance of information factors and residents’ attitudes in reducing uncertainty and symptoms of PTSD developed during crisis situations, including the current COVID-19 pandemic.


crisis, oil spill, uncertainty, post-traumatic stress disorder, information seeking

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