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Anxiety about radiation everyday stress

October 2, 2015


Study: Radiation-related stress not easing among Fukushima mothers


Anxiety about radiation everyday stress


FUKUSHIMA--Psychological stress from the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear plant has remained around the same level as in 2014 among mothers and children living in Fukushima city, a study found.

The stress levels had been dropping since 2011, the year the nuclear disaster started, but apparently bottomed out last year, according to surveys conducted by the Center for Psychological Studies of Disaster at Fukushima University.

“Even after decontamination work is done, the radiation levels remain higher than in pre-accident measurements,” said Yuji Tsutsui, director of the center. “Residents have no choice but to be conscious about radiation in their daily lives, and such anxiety prevents the stress levels from dropping.”

In the latest survey, whose results were released on Sept. 30, mothers with children in kindergarten and elementary school were asked about their and their children’s emotional state.

Mothers who evacuated from no-entry areas around the nuclear plant and residents living in Iwaki and Soma in Fukushima Prefecture were part of the survey for the first time.

Questionnaires were also sent to mothers in Marumori and three other municipalities in southern Miyagi Prefecture, near the Fukushima Prefecture border.

To compare stress levels around the nation, the survey covered mothers in Hyogo Prefecture in western Japan and Kagoshima Prefecture in Kyushu.

The survey yielded 4,733 responses.

The respondents were asked a number of questions, such as if they have flashbacks about the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that caused the nuclear accident and whether they are easily startled by noises. The researchers quantified the levels of the respondents’ stress on a scale ranging from zero to 3.

The average stress level for mothers in Fukushima city was 1.36, the same as that of 2014. It was 1.63 in 2011.

The stress level for children in Fukushima city was 0.66 this year, down just 0.01 point over 2014. The level was 0.83 in 2011.

Mothers who left areas where evacuation orders have been issued showed the highest stress level, at 1.85. In Soma, the level was 1.48, while it was 1.29 in Iwaki.

In Hyogo and Kagoshima prefectures, the average stress level was 1.06.

An average of 35 percent of the respondents in Kagoshima and Hyogo prefectures said they had felt depressed.

In contrast, 67 percent of nuclear evacuees felt depressed, followed by 55 percent of respondents in Miyagi Prefecture. In Fukushima city, Soma and Iwaki, the “depressed” ratios were 45 percent or higher.

“We want to support mothers and children with psychiatric treatment so they can live carefree and positively even with their stress,” Tsutsui said.

In Miyagi Prefecture, the average stress level of mothers with children in the lower grades of elementary school was 1.40. It was 1.42 among mothers with upper-grade children.

On a 2-point scale for anxiety, the levels of mothers in Miyagi Prefecture were 0.47 and 0.53, respectively.

Those figures were about the same as those for mothers in Fukushima city.

Hiroko Yoshida, a lecturer at Cyclotron and Radioisotope Center at Tohoku University, has been monitoring airborne radiation levels in the southern areas of Miyagi Prefecture.

“The radiation levels there are no less than those in Soma and Date in northern Fukushima Prefecture,” she said. “The emotional effect caused by the nuclear plant accident is not an issue only for Fukushima Prefecture.

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