Objective: Major disasters can affect the health status of the victims. However, the effects on the health status of those involved in disaster relief operations are unclear. The aim of this study was to clarify how disaster-related administrative workloads affect the cardiovascular risk factors of local governmental staff.
Methods: A big earthquake struck the central area of Niigata Prefecture, Japan, in October 2004. Thereafter, the Niigata Prefectural Government was engaged in intensive disaster relief operations until March 2005. We compared the changes in the cardiovascular risk factor measurements of 4035 governmental staff members across this period in terms of their workloads due to the relief operations.
Results: Compared with the staff having the lowest workloads, those with the highest workloads showed significantly greater increases of BMI, systolic blood pressure (SPB) and serum total cholesterol for men as well as SBP and diastolic blood pressure for women even after cessation of the intensive operations. They had an approximately two-fold higher risk of SBP elevation by 10 mmHg than those with the lowest workloads; the age-adjusted odds ratio (95% confidence interval) was 2.02 (1.47-2.79) for men and 1.82 (1.21-2.75) for women.
Conclusion: Workloads during disaster relief operations can cause prolonged worsening of blood pressure levels and some other cardiovascular risk factors among local governmental staff. Therefore, when a disaster occurs, health management should be considered not only for the victims, but also for the local governmental staff.