Trauma, depression, and resilience of earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster survivors of Hirono, Fukushima, Japan

Hiroko Kukihara, Niwako Yamawaki, Kumi Uchiyama, Shoichi Arai, Etsuo Horikawa
Psychiatry and Clinical Neurosciences 2014, 68 (7): 524-33

AIM: A mega-earthquake and tsunami struck the northeastern coast of Japan, and many survivors were forced to evacuate to temporary housing due to rising radiation levels. The aims of this study were to investigate the prevalence of symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, and poor general health among survivors, to test the predictive roles of resilience on mental and physical health, and to examine the predictive sociodemographic factors on resilience.

METHODS: Two hundred and forty-one evacuees (men/women: 116/125) from Hirono, Fukushima participated in the study. They were asked to complete the Connor-Davidson Resilience Scale, the Zung Self-Rating Depression Scale, the Impact of Events Scale-Revised, and a demographic questionnaire.

RESULTS: Among all participants, 53.5% exhibited the clinically concerning symptoms of PTSD, and among them 33.2% indicated clinical PTSD symptoms. Additionally, 66.8% reported symptoms of depression, and among them 33.2% showed mildly depressive symptoms, while 19.1% and 14.5% demonstrated moderate and severe depressive symptoms, respectively. Resilience was a significant buffer for depression, PTSD, and general health. Additionally, employment status, eating/exercise habits, and drinking habits predicted resilience.

CONCLUSION: The results indicated that depression and PTSD are prevalent among the survivors of massive earthquakes, tsunamis, and accidents from nuclear power plants. However, the results also showed that some survivors managed to endure the traumatic events relatively well, and resilience was a significant protective factor in dealing with such events. Therefore, it is crucial to assist survivors in improving their resilience by providing job opportunities and encouraging a healthy lifestyle.

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