Stress levels not easing down for Fukushima mothers

When the Fukushima power planet went down, stress levels went up. Stress hasn’t eased down more than four years after the Fukushima disaster. A recent stress survey found that anxiety levels of Fukushima mothers in 2015 was about the same as last year. These fears are fueled by an an invisible blanket of radiation that haunts the Fukushima Prefecture.

Stress levels plunged after the disaster in 2011. This smooth decline was disrupted last year, according to a study conducted by Center for Psychological Studies of Disaster at Fukushima University.

“Even after decontamination work is done, the radiation levels remain higher than in pre-accident measurements,” Yuji Tsutsui, director of the center, told sources. “Residents have no choice but to be conscious about radiation in their daily lives, and such anxiety prevents the stress levels from dropping.” (1)

Quantifying Anxiety Levels

The results of the survey were released September 30th. During the survey, researchers asked mothers with children in kindergarten and elementary school to rank their child’s emotional state.

More than 120,000 people evacuated the Fukushima Prefecture when the tsunami caused a meltdown at the power plant. Many residents are just now being allowed to visit their abandoned homes. Mothers who lived in no-entry areas near the plant were included in the survey for the first time.

Questionnaires were also delivered to mothers in Marumori and three other municipalities in southern Miyagi Prefecture, which is close to Fukushima’s border.

The researchers needed to compare and contrast the stress levels of communities throughout Japan, so they included mothers at Hyogo Prefecture in western Japan and Kagoshima Prefecture in Kyushu. An estimated 4,733 surveys were completed.

The respondents were asked a wide range of questions, including whether they had flashbacks of the earthquake, the nuclear accident caused by the earthquake and if they were easily startled by loud noises. The researchers ranked responses to the questions on a scale from zero to three.

The average stress level for mothers living in the Fukushima city was 1.36, which was the same in 2014. The average stress level was 1.63 in 2011, thus reflecting its steady decline.

Mothers who left regions where evacuation orders were issued had the highest stress levels, with an average of at 1.85 in the survey. Closely following were mothers in Soma, with an average stress level of 1.48, and Iwaki, with an average stress level of 1.29.

Stress levels haven’t eased for children living in the Fukushima Prefecture this year either. The average stress level for children this year was 0.66, which was down just 0.01 point from last year.

Comparing and Contrasting Stress

The lowest stress levels were in Hyogo and Kagoshima Prefectures, with an average stress level of 1.06. Approximately 35 percent of participants living in this prefectures said they felt depressed. (1)

By contrast, approximately 67 percent of nuclear evacuees and 55 percent of participants in the Miyagi Prefecture said they felt depressed. The depression ratios were 45 percent higher in areas most affected by the disaster, including Fukushima, Soma and Iwaki.(1)

“We want to support mothers and children with psychiatric treatment so they can live carefree and positively even with their stress,” Tsutsui said.(1)

The average stress level of mothers with children in early elementary school was 1.40, and 1.42 among mothers with children in higher grades of elementary school.(1)

Based upon a two point scale for anxiety, the average stress level for mothers in Miyagi Prefecture were 0.47 and 0.53. These figures were parallel to mothers in Fukushima city.(1)

Hiroko Yoshida, a research assistant at Cyclotron and Radioisotope Center at Tohoku University, has been tracking airborne radiation levels in the southern areas of Miyagi Prefecture.

“The radiation levels there are no less than those in Soma and Date in northern Fukushima Prefecture,” she told sources. “The emotional effect caused by the nuclear plant accident is not an issue only for Fukushima Prefecture.” (1)

Sources include:

(1) Ajw.Asahi.com