Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)




Susan J. Elliott




The people of Karakalpakstan, along with those of the entire Aral Sea region, are facing a multitude of health problems corresponding to the drying of the Aral Sea and accompanying ecological problems. This research examines the contribution of the environmental disaster and other mediating variables on the psychosocial health of people in Karakalpakstan, about which no other data are available at present. Four research objectives are addressed within a cross-sectional research design using descriptive and logistic regression analysis: 1) to determine people's perceptions (health and environmental) associated with the environmental disaster; 2) to examine the links between health and environment made by individuals; 3) to determine the prevalence of psychosocial impacts amongst local residents; and, 4) to investigate the determinants of psychosocial impacts. As part of M6decins Sans Frontieres' (MSF) operational research program, and with the assistance of local Universities, and local health care workers, an interview survey was carried out on a random sample of individuals (n=881) in three communities in Karakalpakstan. Results show that much of the study population is concerned about the environment and is experiencing high levels of emotional distress. Also, low levels of self-perceived health were reported in the three study communities, and health problems were commonly perceived as being associated with environmental problems. Further, results for a series of site specific analysis revealed that outcome measures can be successfully explained by a combination of external and mediating factors including individual's location of residence, gender, age, social network characteristics and perceptions of the environmental situation. These results have added to our understanding of the severity and nature of risk perceptions and psychosocial impacts associated with a long term, multi-sourced environmental disaster in a developing world context. Furthermore, these findings have demonstrated that strategies aimed at addressing and alleviating psychosocial impacts need to be specific to the characteristics of the populations most affected.

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