An estimated 2,000 people died during the Fukushima evacuation process in 2011. More than four years later, the Fukushima power plant is still claiming lives. Reports reveal that the disaster has been linked to a spike in suicide rates and spontaneous abortions.
According to a Japanese Cabinet Office report, approximately 56 suicides between 2011 and 2014 in the Fukushima prefecture were tied to the nuclear disaster. These figures are a conservative estimate. Suicide rates in the area are likely much higher.(1)
Suicide rates increase among young and elderly
The suicide rates impact the young and elderly. Men and women aged 80 years old or more had higher suicide rates in the prefecture. In addition, suicide rates among younger ages spiked in 2013 in the region. Increased suicide rates were not observed in the rest of Japan.(1)
In Fukushima, suicide related to finances has decreased; nevertheless, there is no official explanation for why suicide rates among the young and elderly have increased.
Their are many factors that likely contribute to the rise in suicide rates in the prefecture. Moving to an unfamiliar region, a lack of social support, poor living conditions and radiation exposure can all take a toll on an individual’s mental health.
Radiation claims lives of the unborn
Increased mortality rates weren’t bound to the born. According to Dr. Alfred Körblein from Nuremburg in Germany, there has been an increase in spontaneous abortions in the Fukushima Prefecture too. Prior to the disaster, their was a 15 percent drop in the number of live births in the Fukushima Prefecture. In 2012, the year after the disaster, infant mortality rates increased by 20 percent.(1)
“The fact that infant mortality peaks in May 2012, more than one year after the Fukushima accident, suggests that the increase is an effect of internal rather than external radiation exposure,” said Dr. Körblein.
The doctor reported that human consumption of food tainted by radiation from the Fukushima plant could explain the excess infant mortality rates near the Fukushima site.