Quantcast
Energy

3 Years After Fukushima: How Survivors' Mental Health Continues Deteriorating

So much of the impact of a disaster like the earthquake and tsunami three years ago in Fukushima, Japan is tangible—radioactive leaksfood scarespetitions and lawsuits have all taken place since March 11, 2011.

The emotional distress faced by many in the areas near the six-reactor Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is far less palpable, though. Predictions on the nuclear future of Japan and other large nations like the U.S. are much easier to find than accounts of impacted and displaced residents whose mental health continues to suffer from the events of that day.

Volunteers work on an affected property in at Minamisoma city, Fukushima. Photo credit: Hajime NAKANO/Flickr Creative Commons

Though thousands died from the impacts of the earthquake and tsunami, no deaths directly related to radiation have been reported, according to the BBCBut that doesn't ease concerns for people like Myuki Arakawa, a mother of two who routinely takes her sons to the hospital for thyroid cancer. Since 2011, surveys have revealed 33 cases of thyroid cancer in children and another 42 suspected cases.

Though Fukushima University Medical School Professor Shinichi Suzuki, who leads the team of researchers surveying children in the area, tires of people likening Fukushima to the 1986 disaster at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in Ukraine, there's no denying one of Arakawa's chief concern.

"After the Chernobyl disaster children were diagnosed many years later," she told the BBC. "My boys may be fine now, but if there is any risk I need to find out as soon as possible."

She's not comfortable relying on the government for information. Just two weeks ago, Japanese officials announced plans to restart reactors that were closed after the incident, calling nuclear energy a "vital source" of power.

"The government gives us very little information," Arakawa said. "I need to be completely sure my boys are fine. I want this hospital to follow up next year and the following year and the one after that."

According to research revealed in a TIME report, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms are on the rise in nearby towns like Hirono, Fukushima, where few people died, but survivors lived with haunting memories.

More than half of the 241 residents surveyed displayed "clinically concerning” symptoms of PTSD, said Brigham Young University professor Niwako Yamawaki, who authored a study of Hirono. Also, two-thirds reported depression symptoms.

All survey participants lived in temporary housing provided by the government. Their average age was 58, as researchers found that younger residents relocated at a higher rate. Healthy diets, exercise and even often frowned-upon habits like drinking alcohol appeared to be the only positive buffers from the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster.

“In the U.S., if people are drinking after a psychologically traumatic event, it is seen as a negative consequence,"Yamawaki said. "But what we found was that when people were drinking in Japan, they were interacting with community members–usually over dinner or at meetings.”

For some, that hasn't been enough these past few years. Hideko Takeda, a 56-year-old near Namie, Fukushima, told the BBC that her father succumbed to the stress of being displaced and died after two years of his health deteriorating. She also spoke about a man who hanged himself after the disaster.

"I blame the power company [TEPCO] for his death," she said of her father. "They took everything from him, his dreams, his hope. They took his land and scattered his family far from home.

"Nothing will ever bring those back."

Visit EcoWatch’s NUCLEAR page for more related news on this topic.

Show Comments ()

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Sponsored
Climate
Joshua Tree National Park now has more unsafe ozone days than New York City. atramos / CC BY 2.0

Air Pollution in National Parks as Bad as 20 Largest U.S. Cities

A new study shows the importance of clean air regulations to prevent air pollution from reaching national parks.

A study published in Science Advances Wednesday found that, between 1990 and 2014, the ozone concentrations in 33 of the largest and most visited national parks were statistically indistinguishable from the ozone concentrations in the 20 largest U.S. cities.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Emilie Chen / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

Against All Odds, Mountain Gorilla Numbers Are on the Rise

By Jason Bittel

The news coming out of East Africa's Virunga Mountains these days would have made the late (and legendary) conservationist Dian Fossey very happy. According to the most recent census, the mountain gorillas introduced to the world in Gorillas in the Mist, Fossey's book and the film about her work, have grown their ranks from 480 animals in 2010 to 604 as of June 2016. Add another couple hundred apes living in scattered habitats to the south, and their population as a whole totals more than 1,000. Believe it or not, this makes the mountain gorilla subspecies the only great apes known to be increasing in number.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
Halliburton getting ready to frack in the Bakken formation, which underlies North Dakota, Montana, Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Joshua Doubek / CC BY-SA 3.0

Zinke’s Real Estate Deal With Halliburton Chair to Be Investigated

Ousted U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) head Scott Pruitt isn't the only polluter-friendly Trump appointee with sketchy ethics.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
"From 1992 to 2016, heat killed 783 workers in the U.S. and seriously injured nearly 70,000, according to a new report on heat risks." InsideClimateNews / USDA

Protect Workers From Extreme Heat, Advocates Urge OSHA

A broad coalition of worker advocacy, public health and environmental groups on Tuesday called on the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to create a workplace standard for heat stress.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Health
San Cristóbal de las Casas, in the Mexican state of Chiapas. Tjeerd Wiersma from Amsterdam, The Netherlands / CC BY 2.0

How Coca-Cola and Climate Change Created a Public Health Crisis in a Mexican Town

A lack of drinking water and a surplus of Coca-Cola are causing a public health crisis in the Mexican town of San Cristóbal de las Casas, The New York Times reported Saturday.

Some neighborhoods in the town only get running water a few times a week, so residents turn to soda, drinking more than half a gallon a day on average.

Keep reading... Show less
Animals
Plastic trash isn't safe for kids, whether human or bear. Kevin Morgans Wildlife Photography

Even Polar Bear Cubs Can’t Escape Plastic Pollution

By Allison Guy

Plastic bags are often stamped with an all-caps warning: This bag is not a toy. Unfortunately, polar bear moms don't have much control over their kids' playthings.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Insights
Sea level rise is a natural consequence of the warming of our planet. NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

We Can’t Hide From Global Warming’s Consequences

Over the past few months, heat records have broken worldwide.

In early July, the temperature in Ouargla, Algeria, reached 51.3°C (124.34°F), the highest ever recorded in Africa! Temperatures in the eastern and southwestern U.S. and southeastern Canada have also hit record highs. In Montreal, people sweltered under temperatures of 36.6°C (97.88°F), the highest ever recorded there, as well as record-breaking extreme midnight heat and humidity, an unpleasant experience shared by people in Ottawa. Dozens of people have died from heat-related causes in Quebec alone.

Keep reading... Show less
Health
Stacey_newman / Getty Images

More Than a Third of Schools Tested Have ‘Elevated Levels’ of Lead in Drinking Water

A troubling new report by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that more than a third of the nation's schools that tested their water for lead found "elevated levels" of the neurotoxin. But despite heightened concern in recent years about lead in drinking water, more than 40 percent of schools surveyed conducted no lead testing in 2016.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!