National

Trauma affecting health of Nagasaki atomic bomb survivors

The health ministry has released a report indicating that survivors of the 1945 atomic bombing of Nagasaki who are not currently eligible for the government’s subsidized medical care suffer from deteriorating health that is attributed to mental trauma.

Based on the report, the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry is expected to discuss expanding the subsidized medical coverage to include survivors of the bombing who live in and around Nagasaki and who are ill as a result of mental trauma.

Under the Atomic Bomb Victims Relief Law, which came into effect in 1995, the ministry has only recognized people with radiation-related health problems as being eligible to receive the government-subsidized health treatment.

According to the report, submitted July 11 by a ministry study group, the survivors questioned had become ill due to a number of reasons, including anxiety over the possible aftereffects of exposure to radiation and social discrimination against bomb survivors.

However, the study group ruled out exposure to radiation from the bombing as a cause of their symptoms.

Currently, survivors living in an area measuring about 24 km from north to south and 12 km from east to west of the bomb’s ground zero in Nagasaki are recognized as official hibakusha and are eligible to receive free medical care.

There have been growing calls to expand the coverage area, with the city of Nagasaki demanding that the area be expanded to cover 24 km east to west of the bomb site.

The city compiled its own report that identified deteriorating health among survivors not covered by the law and submitted it to the ministry in April last year.

The ministry’s study group conducted the followup survey in March and found survivors suffering from dizziness, physical pain and suspected trauma.

Nagasaki Mayor Iccho Ito welcomed the ministry’s conclusions Wednesday, saying the recognition of mental trauma gives a “very significant scientific basis” to the deteriorating health of survivors who are not eligible for free medical treatment.

“I want the state to take this seriously and expand the zone in which survivors are officially recognized as atomic bomb victims. This summer marks the 56th anniversary of the atomic bombing. In a way, it is too late,” Ito said.