Post-disaster evacuation boosts elderly’s mortality risk against non-evacuees

29 November 2015

The rate of mortality among nursing home residents in the first year after being evacuated due to the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster was 2.68 times that in the previous five years, while the rate for those who were not evacuated was only 1.68 times, according to a study by researchers involved with hospitals in Fukushima Prefecture’s Soma region in northeastern Japan.

The study was published in an international medical journal by Shuhei Nomura, a researcher at Imperial College London, Masaharu Tsubokura, a physician at the Minamisoma Municipal General Hospital, and others studying evacuation-related mortality risks among elderly evacuees in the wake of the 2011 nuclear disaster.

Nomura and his team had published data on post-evacuation mortality rates at five elderly care facilities in Minamisoma city in 2013. In the latest study, they added data from two facilities in Soma city that were not evacuated for comparison and analysis. The study population comprised 1,215 residents at seven elderly care facilities, including those in the five years before the accident.

From the cases in Minamisoma and Soma cities, evacuation resulted in a mortality rate 1.82 times that of non-evacuation. When focusing only on initial evacuation from the original facility, mortality risk was 3.37 times higher. Meanwhile, no significant increase in mortality risk was found in subsequent evacuation cases thereafter in which preparations were believed to be more adequate.

(Translated by Kyodo News)