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No Associations of Psychological Symptoms and Suicide Risk with Disaster Experiences in Junior High School Students 5 Years After the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

Authors Kawahara K, Ushijima H, Usami M, Takebayashi M

Received 29 June 2020

Accepted for publication 3 September 2020

Published 15 October 2020 Volume 2020:16 Pages 2377—2387


Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single anonymous peer review

Peer reviewer comments 3

Editor who approved publication: Dr Taro Kishi

Kazuhiro Kawahara,1,2 Hirokage Ushijima,2 Masahide Usami,2 Minoru Takebayashi3

1Department of Neuropsychiatry, Graduate School of Medical Science, Kumamoto University, Kumamoto, Japan; 2Department of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, Kohnodai Hospital, National Center for Global Health and Medicine, Chiba, Japan; 3Department of Neuropsychiatry, Faculty of Life Sciences, Kumamoto University, Kumamoto, Japan

Correspondence: Masahide Usami Email [email protected]

Introduction: Natural disasters such as earthquakes can cause substantial damage and trauma, especially to children. The aim of this study was to examine the effects of disaster experience on psychological symptoms, suicide risk, and associated factors in junior high school students 5 years after the Great East Japan Earthquake (GEJE). The hypothesis of this study was that psychological symptoms and suicide risk of junior high school students are associated with disaster experience.
Methods: A cross-sectional survey consisting of questionnaires and face-to-face interviews with students at two junior high schools in Ishinomaki city, Miyagi Prefecture, Japan, about psychological symptoms, disaster situations, and their current environment 5 years after the GEJE was conducted. In total, data from 264 (117 boys [44.3%] and 147 girls [55.7%]) students were analyzed.
Results: There were no associations between disaster experience and PTSSC-15, DSRS-C, and SCAS scores. Those with evacuation experience and still living in temporary housing had significantly higher scores on the oppositional defiant behavior inventory (ODBI). Of these students, 29 (11.0%) were considered to have suicide risk 5 years after the GEJE. The presence of depressive symptoms was the only factor related to suicide risk; no associations were found with sex, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms, or other factors reported in previous studies, including disaster experience.
Conclusions: Disaster experience was not associated with psychological symptoms (PTSD, depression, anxiety) and suicide risk in junior high school students 5 years after the GEJE. The suicide risk appears to be the same as that in the general population in Japan. However, attention should be paid to externalization problems and depressive symptoms, an important suicide risk factor, even 5 years after the GEJE.

Keywords: disaster, Great East Japan Earthquake, long-term, psychological symptoms, suicide risk

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