A Psychophysiological Field Study of Stress at Three Mile Island

Robert Joseph Gatchel, Marc A. Schaeffer, Andrew Baum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Residents of the area surrounding the Three Mile Island (TMI) nucelar power plant and from a control location 80 miles away participated in a longitudinal study of response to the venting of radioactive gas from the damaged reactor. Four assessments (including one prior to the venting, one during the venting, and two post‐venting) were made using a battery of biochemical, performance, and self‐report measures. Relative to demographically matched control subjects, TMI subjects exhibited higher levels of stress on each mode of this battery. While perceived threat and task performance remained constant during the four assessments for TMI subjects, symptom reporting and urinary catecholamine levels decreased after the krypton gas venting. Since these data were collected more than 17 months after the reactor accident, the findings suggest that the venting procedures had specific acute effects on chronic problems being experienced by TMI subjects, but no global effect across all measures.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-181
Number of pages7
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Jan 1985


  • Catecholamines
  • Epinephrine, Norepinephrine
  • SCL‐90
  • Stress
  • TMI


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