Nuclear disaster-related stress eases among mothers, children

A team of researchers has found that psychological stress stemming from the nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Daiichi power plant has eased among mothers and their children in Fukushima Prefecture compared with a year earlier. Team leader Yuji Tsutsui, an experimental psychologist and professor at Fukushima University's Faculty of Symbiotic Systems Science, unveiled the results of the survey at a news conference at the state-run university on June 12. The survey, conducted in January, covered mothers of 1,690 students and kindergarteners at five elementary schools and five kindergartens in the prefectural capital of Fukushima where air radiation levels are relatively high. It asked a wide range of questions concerning mothers' worries about radiation and mental stress as well as the children's stress. The survey replies were scored according to the strength of worry or stress. The scores for each question declined from the previous surveys conducted in January 2012 and in June-July 2011. One of the questions concerning mothers' concerns about radiation was whether they allow their children to play outdoors. Of the respondents, 71.9 percent answered that they allow their children to play outdoors frequently or at times, up sharply from 46.0 percent in the 2012 survey and 33.3 percent in the 2011 survey. According to the survey, 61.2 percent of the mothers replied that they hang up clothes outdoors frequently or at times, up from 49.7 percent in the 2012 survey and 40.4 percent in the 2011 survey. Questions about the mothers' stress included whether they have sudden flashbacks about the disaster, whether they are depressed, or whether they can concentrate on their work. The survey also included questions about their children's stress, like whether they tend not to show interest in new activities, whether they have temper tantrums, or whether they fear being alone. Meanwhile, the survey also covered mothers who live outside of Fukushima Prefecture. The levels of the mothers' concerns and stress are lower than those in Fukushima Prefecture, indicating that mothers and children in Fukushima Prefecture are still troubled by stress caused by radiation.