Title: Fukushima: Fallout of fear
Author: Geoff Brumfiel
Date: 16 January 2013
After the Fukushima nuclear disaster, Japan kept people safe from the physical effects of radiation — but not from the psychological impacts.
[...] It is a pattern seen frequently after major catastrophes, says Ronald Kessler, a professor of health-care policy at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts. “In the short term, people get energized,” he says. But when extensive damage or health problems prevent them from getting back to their old lives, depression and anxiety set in. “When something this big happens, it’s just ridiculously daunting,” he says. “At a certain point you just get worn down.” [...]
[Hirooki Yabe, a neuropsychiatrist at Fukushima Medical University] says that “radiophobia” remains a major problem among the Japanese refugees. A poll published last year by the Pew Research Center in Washington DC, for example, found that 76% of Japanese people believed that food from Fukushima was not safe, despite government and scientific assurances to the contrary. [...]
Kessler says that unlike the tsunami survivors, whose grief will lessen over time, the nuclear evacuees could experience growing anxiety, particularly about radiation. “When everything has settled down, that will be a huge, rife issue,” he predicts. Now is the best time to try to get ahead of these problems, he says. “There’s a window of opportunity.” [...]
Published: January 16th, 2013 at 12:08 pm ET