More than 30 percent of children caught up in the March 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami that heavily damaged Tohoku’s coastline are suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, a health ministry survey says.
The survey covered 198 children in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures aged 3 to 5 at the time of the disasters, which ravaged all three. They were interviewed by psychiatrists from September 2012 to June 2013.
“Those children grew up to be able to express their fears of the disaster or their grief at losing friends,” said Takeo Fujiwara, a researcher at the National Center for Child Health and Development.
According to the survey, 33.8 percent of the children exhibited PTSD symptoms, including sleeping disorders and flashbacks. That was much higher than the 3.7 percent logged for children from the Kansai prefecture of Mie, who were surveyed for comparison.
According to the survey, children with stronger PTSD symptoms showed less emotion than others when humorous videos were played to monitor changes in facial expressions.
Of the 177 parents surveyed, 39 percent of those living in areas where residents are less friendly with one another showed symptoms of PTSD, compared with 23.2 percent for those living in areas where neighbors had tighter bonds.
This gap reflects the effective role that cooperative relationships play in easing PTSD symptoms, researchers said.
Meanwhile, in a separate survey by Tohoku University, a study of more than 3,700 adults in coastal communities in Miyagi shows that more than 7 percent may be suffering from depression or strong anxiety due to the disasters.
The rate of depression in Ishinomaki and six other coastal municipalities in the study, released Thursday, was three times higher than the national average, as logged in a health ministry survey in 2004.
The survey cited extreme situations and relatives’ deaths as potential causes of the increased psychological suffering.
Miyagi had the highest death toll from March 2011, accounting for 9,537 of the 15,884 confirmed deaths, according to a Feb. 10 National Police Agency survey.