Mental health suffers most in major nuclear accidents, studies find via Reuters UK

People caught up in a nuclear disaster are more likely to suffer severe psychological disorders such as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder rather than any harm from radiation, scientists said on Friday.

Factors such as having to evacuate homes or simply fear contribute to the trauma, the scientists said in studies published in The Lancet to mark the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The studies counter the misconception that nuclear disasters have caused widespread death and physical illness, with the researchers finding that the mental health effects were far more profound.

“In most nuclear accidents very few people are exposed to a life-threatening dose of radiation,” wrote Akira Ohtsuru of the Fukushima Medical University (FMU).

Koichi Tanigawa of FMU, who led one of the studies, said the psychological burden for people living in affected regions is often overlooked.

In 2006, the United Nations Chernobyl Forum report found that accident’s most serious public health issue was its damage to mental health, an effect made worse by poor communication about the health risks of reported radiation levels.

Even now, 20 years after the accident, rates of depression and post traumatic stress disorder remain higher than normal, the researchers said.

Similar problems were seen after Fukushima, with the proportion of adults with psychological distress almost five times higher among disaster evacuees – at 14.6 percent compared with just 3 percent in the general population.

Read more.
Koichi Tanigawa: A Passionate Voice in Radiation Disaster Medicine

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2 Responses to Mental health suffers most in major nuclear accidents, studies find via Reuters UK

  1. norma field says:

    There seems to be a new rash of studies emphasizing mental over physical harm from nuclear disasters. Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive. And no one thinks that stress has no effect on bodily well being. This latest study comes from Fukushima Medical University, the bastion of reassurance about the minimal health impacts of exposure (think Dr. Yamashita). And interestingly, this article quotes the Chernobyl Forum report, known for its extremely low assessment of harmful impact from Chernobyl.

  2. Bo Jacobs says:

    An excellent point Norma. It is good for people to finally begin to acknowledge the mental health toll of nuclear disasters. However this study does so as a means of refuting the epidemiological impact. It betrays an underhanded political agenda in the guise of human compassion. It is precisely because of the dire physiological effects that people experience so much mental and emotional distress.

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