[Mental health in evacuees from the 3.11 complex disaster in Japan].


Two years after the ‘3.11’ complex disaster – the Great East Japan Earthquake, the resulting tsunami, and the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident – that occurred on March 11, 2011, approximately 150,000 people were still living as evacuees, with approximately 50,000 evacuees living outside Fukushima Prefecture. In a survey conducted by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in February 2012, the top three sources of anxiety among evacuees were radiation contamination (mentioned by 56% of respondents), income (48%), and school attendance of children (21%). In June 2012, results from the Mental Health Survey, which was conducted as part of the Fukushima Health Management Survey, indicated that 14.8% of adult evacuees had K6 scores equal to or greater than the standard cut-off of 13, a much higher proportion than the 3% found in previous studies. In the same survey, 21.5% of child evacuees had SDQ scores equal to or greater than the standard cut-off of 16, whereas previous studies suggest a typical ratio of around 9.5%. It is natural for people to experience anxiety when facing radiation exposure, even at low levels. Here the important thing is to be ‘accurately’ afraid: people should pay attention to scientific facts, and avoid danger appropriately, but not be unduly frightened. However, some people remain anxious even when objective radiation levels are low enough to not result in harm. A number of parents with young children decided to relocate outside of Fukushima Prefecture. In consideration of the desires of these parents to have areas where their children could play without being concerned about radiation, some municipalities constructed spacious indoor play facilities where parents have increased opportunities to communicate with each other, which actually leads to effective risk communication. Compared to the trajectory of mental health recovery after the 1995 Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake, recovery after the present disaster is delayed, particularly in Fukushima. In Fukushima, many disturbing events, such as the issue of water contaminated by radiation, have distressed evacuees, resulting in their delayed recovery in terms of mental health.