A phenomenological understanding of residents’ emotional distress of living in an environmental justice community

Gabriela Dory, Zeyuan Qiu, Christina M. Qiu, Mei R. Fu, Caitlin E. Ryan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Deteriorative environmental conditions in environmental justice (EJ) communities not only post direct health risks such as chronic illnesses, but also cause emotional distress such as anxiety, fear, and anger among residents, which may further exacerbate health risks. This study applies a descriptive phenomenological method to explore and describe the emotional experience of residents living in Ironbound, a known EJ community located in Newark, New Jersey. Twenty-three residents participated in the study. Four essential themes regarding the residents’ emotional experiences were elicited from 43 interviews: (1) being worried about the harmful effects of the surrounding pollution; (2) being distressed by the known historical pollution sources; (3) being frustrated by the unheard voices and/or lack of responses; and (4) being angered by the ongoing pollution sources. Participants not only expressed their emotions of worry, distress, frustration, and anger in detail but also described reasons or situations that provoked such negative emotions. Such detailed depictions provide insights into potential meaningful strategies to improve residents’ psychological wellbeing by alleviating negative emotions and meaningfully engaging residents in developing, implementing, and enforcing environmental laws, regulations, and policies to achieve EJ goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1269450
JournalInternational Journal of Qualitative Studies on Health and Well-being
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Issues, ethics and legal aspects
  • Gerontology
  • Fundamentals and skills
  • Health Policy


  • Descriptive phenomenology
  • Emotional distress
  • Environmental justice
  • Ironbound
  • Newark
  • Qualitative research


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