Disasters and pandemics can affect the physical and psychological health of the people involved even after the events have occurred. These effects may include chronic non-communicable diseases. Now, researchers at Osaka University have identified similarities and differences in secondary health effects in people who have experienced disasters and pandemics.
Following the devastating East Japan Earthquake and the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident in Japan in 2011, non-communicable diseases have increased since then. In a seven-year follow-up after the Fukushima disaster, a previous study found that the age-adjusted prevalence of diabetes in both evacuees and non-evacuees increased significantly. Similar concerns existed regarding the COVID-19 pandemic and its potential impact on chronic diseases. This meant that many restrictions were implemented to ensure the safety and health of the people of Japan. To stop the spread of infection, people were encouraged to stay at home and work from home. Perhaps as a result of this, increased body weight in certain populations and mental disorders have been observed.
In this study, changes in the prevalence of diseases in Japan, including hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and mental disorders, before and after the Fukushima disaster and the COVID-19 pandemic were reviewed using a health insurance dataset over a long period of time. . . First, changes in the prevalence of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and mental disorders over the nine years following the Fukushima disaster were analyzed. Second, changes in prevalence before and after the COVID-19 pandemic were examined. Results were examined by age and gender to determine the most affected groups.
The results of this study showed that the prevalence of all four diseases increased in Fukushima Prefecture after the Fukushima disaster and across Japan after the outbreak of COVID-19 as well. Increased rates of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and mental disorders were highest among women aged 40-74 years after the Fukushima disaster. However, after the outbreak of COVID-19, the increase in prevalence rates of all four diseases was highest among men aged 0-39 years.
This study has shed some light on identifying the vulnerable populations involved and assessing the secondary effect of disasters on the mental and physical health of these people.”
Michio Murakami, lead author
The importance of supporting secondary health effects after disasters and pandemics is now being recognized and may lead to improved post-disaster policies and recommendations that focus on health promotion and effective prevention strategies.
Murakami, M., et al. (2022) Annual prevalence of non-communicable diseases and identification of vulnerable populations following the Fukushima disaster and the COVID-19 pandemic. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. doi.org/10.1016/j.ijdrr.2022.103471.