High Prevalence of Post-Traumatic Stress Symptoms in Relation to Social Factors in Affected Population One Year after the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster

Takuya Tsujiuchi , Maya Yamaguchi, Kazutaka Masuda, Marisa Tsuchida, Tadashi Inomata, Hiroaki Kumano, Yasushi Kikuchi, Eugene F. Augusterfer, Richard F. Mollica
Published: March 22, 2016http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0151807

This study investigated post-traumatic stress symptoms in relation to the population affected by the Fukushima Nuclear Disaster, one year after the disaster. Additionally, we investigated social factors, such as forced displacement, which we hypothesize contributed to the high prevalence of post-traumatic stress. Finally, we report of written narratives that were collected from the impacted population.

Design and Settings
Using the Impact of Event Scale-Revised (IES-R), questionnaires were sent to 2,011 households of those displaced from Fukushima prefecture living temporarily in Saitama prefecture. Of the 490 replies; 350 met the criteria for inclusion in the study. Multiple logistic regression analysis was performed to examine several characteristics and variables of social factors as predictors of probable post-traumatic stress disorder, PTSD.

The mean score of IES-R was 36.15±21.55, with 59.4% having scores of 30 or higher, thus indicating a probable PTSD. No significant differences in percentages of high-risk subjects were found among sex, age, evacuation area, housing damages, tsunami affected, family split-up, and acquaintance support. By the result of multiple logistic regression analysis, the significant predictors of probable PTSD were chronic physical diseases (OR = 1.97), chronic mental diseases (OR = 6.25), worries about livelihood (OR = 2.27), lost jobs (OR = 1.71), lost social ties (OR = 2.27), and concerns about compensation (OR = 3.74).

Although there are limitations in assuming a diagnosis of PTSD based on self-report IES-R, our findings indicate that there was a high-risk of PTSD strongly related to the nuclear disaster and its consequent evacuation and displacement. Therefore, recovery efforts must focus not only on medical and psychological treatment alone, but also on social and economic issues related to the displacement, as well.