Date of Award

January 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Public Health (MPH)


School of Public Health

First Advisor

Nicole Deziel


While the positive relationships between religion and well-being and the environment and well-being have been well established, the influence of environmental degradation on spiritual health outcomes has not been well elucidated. This study evaluates the relationship between density of unconventional oil and gas wells, a potential cause of environmental degradation, and religious adherence in Pennsylvania, a state with active oil and gas development. Between 2010 and 2020, there was a 630.25% increase in the number of well sites, offering greater insight on aggregate changes to religious adherence in response to greater overall exposure.

The study was conducted for all Pennsylvania counties (n=67) in 2010 and 2020. Unconventional oil and gas well counts were collected from the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. From the U.S. Religion Census data, we derived the percent of religious adherents per county. We selected covariates based on race, sex, education, age, political affiliation, income, rural area, and cumulative COVID-19 case rate. Additionally, the spatial autocorrelation of religious adherence was adjusted for in a spatial error model.

The spatial error model showed a 0.072% increase in religious adherence (p = 0.002) for 2010 and a 0.036% increase (p =0.01) in 2020 for every one category increase in well density. While overall adherence decreased, a persistent positive association between well density and religious adherence remained for both years. As a result, religious institutions in well dense areas should consider taking a role in community mobilization and advocacy. Health departments should also consider partnerships with religious institutions for enhanced public health initiatives.


This thesis is restricted to Yale network users only. It will be made publicly available on 05/20/2027