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Fear of radiation from Fukushima accident led to psychiatric disorder hospitalizations

Written By Liberty Bell Press Online on Wednesday, March 28, 2012 | 3:47 PM

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Some 24.4 percent of people who were hospitalized in Fukushima with psychiatric disorders in the wake of the outbreak of the crisis at the crippled Fukushima No. 1 Nuclear Power Plant had done so possibly because of fears of radiation exposure, according to the results of research conducted by psychiatrists at Fukushima Medical University.
It has also been found that of all the outpatients at 27 hospitals in Fukushima Prefecture, 30 percent of them visited hospital apparently for reasons related to the nuclear crisis, according to the research conducted by psychiatrist Akira Wada and others at Fukushima Medical University. There is no data available in the world on the effects of nuclear accidents on psychiatric diseases that were taken immediately after a nuclear accident, and therefore Fukushima Medical University plans to conduct a follow-up study on the effects on patients of the major nuclear accident and prolonged lives as evacuees.

Wada and others at Fukushima Medical University carried out a survey at 30 hospitals in Fukushima Prefecture for two months from March 12, 2011, and 27 of them responded to the survey.
Of the 610 inpatients who were admitted or readmitted to hospital, with men accounting for 49 percent and women for 51 percent, excluding those who were transferred to other hospitals because of the nuclear disaster, 74 of them, or 12.1 percent, were diagnosed as being related to their fears of radiation exposure, while 75 others, or 12.3 percent, were diagnosed as being possibly related to their fears of radiation exposure. People from the Soma, Futaba and Iwaki areas, which are close to the troubled nuclear power station, account for 23 to 27 percent of such inpatients.
Of all the 74 inpatients whose hospitalization was diagnosed as being related to their fears of radiation exposure, nine of them had never had consulted psychiatrists before. Most of the 74 people were admitted or readmitted to hospital within one month from the outbreak of the nuclear disaster, and nearly half of them were in their 40s and 50s. There were cases of people who were suffering from stress from living in evacuation centers in addition to their fears of radiation exposure.
At the same time, Itaru Miura, assistant professor at Fukushima Medical University, and others conducted a survey on outpatients at 77 hospitals and clinics in Fukushima Prefecture once a week for three months from March 12, 2011, to which 57 medical facilities responded.
Of the 410 outpatients at the medical facilities who were suffering from depression or anxiety disorders, 78 of them, or 19 percent, were diagnosed as being linked to the nuclear disaster, and 55 others, or 13.4 percent, were diagnosed as being possibly related to the nuclear disaster. Of all the 133 patients, 47 of them were suffering from depression and 38 others were suffering from acute stress disorder and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and 38 other outpatients were also suffering from adjustment disorders. Nearly half of them had stress from their lives as evacuees, 40 percent of them were worried about the effects of radiation on themselves, and 30 percent of them expressed fears that their children and families could be affected by radiation.
There were reports on the mental effects of radiation from the troubled Chernobyl nuclear power plant, but the research was conducted about 10 years after the outbreak of the nuclear disaster. Shinichi Niwa, professor at Fukushima Medical University, said, "I have the impression that the nuclear accident had such a great impact (that many people were admitted to hospital). Take decontamination work for example, people can feel secure if they do it themselves, rather than if they ask others to do it. It is also important to ease anxieties over radiation exposure with participation of local residents in such a program."
(Mainichi Japan) March 26, 2012
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