FUKUSHIMA Lives on the Line

182The characteristics of newly hospitalized patients in Fukushima prefecture after the Fukushima nuclear disaster WADA Akira, KUNII Yasuto, MATSUMOTO Jynya, ITAGAKI Shuntaro, MIURA Itaru, MASHIKO Hirobumi, YABE Hirooki and NIWA Shin-Ichi Fukushima Medical University, Department of Neuropsychiatry (1 Hikarigaoka, Fukushima 960-1295, Japan)1. IntroductionOn March 11 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake struck our Fukushima Prefecture. The prefecture suffered not only the damage caused by the earthquake and tsunami but also radioactive contamination from the hydrogen explosions at Tokyo Electric Power Company’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, which continue to impose problems. As reported by Kario et al., the white coat hypertension has only worsened after the Great Hanshin-Awaji Earthquake4, 5. Natural disasters such as earthquakes and tsunamis cause enormous stress, while a nuclear disaster has characteristics of longer, continuous exposure to serious concerns and stresses as victims are faced with invisible radioactive contamination. There have been few reports on the changes of the clinical status of psychiatric patients under the rare circumstances of human habitat being jeopardized by radiation, such as the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, the Three Mile Island accident, and the Chernobyl disaster. Unlike the several articles on the Chernobyl nuclear disaster2, 3, 6, which were compiled about 10 years later, this study reports the status immediately after the disaster occurred. In this report, we review the survey results of psychiatric patients who were newly admitted to psychiatric wards in Fukushima Prefecture after the earthquake and nuclear disaster. Also, we discuss the patients’ characteristics and the possible effects caused by the fear of radiation exposure. 2. Method and Subjects1) MethodA questionnaire survey was conducted in 30 hospitals. These included psychiatric hospitals and psychiatric departments of general hospitals registered under the Fukushima Society of Psychiatry and excluded those that lost functionality due to the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear power plant accident as of May 24, 2011. 2) SubjectsSubjects were patients who were newly admitted to the psychiatric hospitals or departments in Fukushima Prefecture between March 12 and May 11, 2011. Those who were transferred due to damage to their hospitals were excluded. 3) Survey Contents The following items were surveyed for each patient: age, gender, period from the earthquake to hospital admission, damages to their homes, psychiatric diagnosis prior to the earthquake, status on admission, diagnosis on admission, type of admission, living conditions prior to admission (three options: home, evacuation center, and others), the degree of association between the fear of radiation exposure and admission evaluated by the doctor in charge. The respondents were asked to rate each item on a scale of 1–3 (1 = Associated, 2 = Somewhat associated, and 3 = Not associated). In case of multiple answers, we categorized the respondents judging from the information they wrote in the additional space provided. Those difficult to classify were grouped under “others.” For psychiatric diagnosis, ICD-1011 was used. Lessons from Fukushima: Psychiatric Care after Radiation ExposureStudy of Newly Admitted Psychiatric Patients after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant AccidentWada A, Kunii Y, Matsumoto J, Itagaki S, Miura I, Mashiko H, Yabe H, and Niwa SJournal of Clinical Psychological Medicine, Vol. 40, No. 11Key Words: Fukushima nuclear disaster, radiation contamination, psychiatric symptoms, inpatient, manic state