Some people are hitting the bottle heavily, while others are smoking more. What they all have in common is difficulty falling asleep.
This is one of the findings of a survey into the health of survivors of the March 11 Great East Japan Earthquake and the devastating tsunami it spawned.
The Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare intends to follow health trends of 30,000 survivors over a 10-year period. They all live in the hardest-hit prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima.
The ministry on Sept. 22 released partial findings for coastal areas of Ishinomaki city in Miyagi Prefecture. Those areas were surveyed ahead of other places.
Forty-three percent of the survivors displayed symptoms of sleep disorder. Anxiety and depression were also far more apparent than in a separate survey targeting the overall population.
The ministry will be tasked to come up measures to deal with the problem. One idea under consideration is home visits by nurses.
The surveys, carried out between late June and early August, targeted residents, aged 18 or older in the Ogatsu and Oshika districts of Ishinomaki. Both areas were devastated by tsunami.
Of the 3,009 people in this category, 1,399 either received medical checkups or answered questionnaires. Their average age was 62.6.
Thirty-five percent of the respondents said they slept for less than six hours.
One question concerned symptoms they had experienced at least three times a week during the previous one-month period.
Fifty-three percent said they took a long time to fall asleep, whereas 39 percent said they awoke in the middle of the night.
A diagnosis of the responses suggested that 43 percent of the respondents likely have sleep disorder. This compares with 29 percent for the separate national survey that used the same international standards.
On the basis of answers about feeling hypersensitive or despair, 7 percent of the respondents were diagnosed as needing expert assistance to treat anxiety and depression. This was more than double the 3 percent in the separate national survey.
Thirty-seven percent said memories of the March 11 disaster kept haunting them even though they tried to put them out their mind.
Thirty-five percent said they became very emotional every time they recall the events of March 11 and the days that followed.
Twenty percent said they consumed more alcohol than before the disaster, whereas 34 percent said they smoked more.
In blood tests and urine tests, however, the proportion of people with anomalies was little different from the national survey results.
The research group tasked with carrying out the health surveys is supervised by the National Institute of Public Health.
Iwate Medical University, Tohoku University and Fukushima Medical University are in charge of surveys in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures, respectively.
People living in evacuation shelters and temporary housing will be questioned at six-month intervals.
Surveys will likely be carried out in Rikuzentakata and elsewhere in Iwate Prefecture from October to November, and in Sendai, Miyagi's prefectural capital, starting Sept. 26.
This article was written by Nobuya Sawa and Shingo Fukushima.
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