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, 106 (2), 206-10

Emotional Consequences of Nuclear Power Plant Disasters

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Emotional Consequences of Nuclear Power Plant Disasters

Evelyn J Bromet. Health Phys.

Abstract

The emotional consequences of nuclear power plant disasters include depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and medically unexplained somatic symptoms. These effects are often long term and associated with fears about developing cancer. Research on disasters involving radiation, particularly evidence from Chernobyl, indicates that mothers of young children and cleanup workers are the highest risk groups. The emotional consequences occur independently of the actual exposure received. In contrast, studies of children raised in the shadows of the Three Mile Island (TMI) and Chernobyl accidents suggest that although their self-rated health is less satisfactory than that of their peers, their emotional, academic, and psychosocial development is comparable. The importance of the psychological impact is underscored by its chronicity and by several studies showing that poor mental health is associated with physical health conditions, early mortality, disability, and overuse of medical services. Given the established increase in mental health problems following TMI and Chernobyl, it is likely that the same pattern will occur in residents and evacuees affected by the Fukushima meltdowns. Preliminary data from Fukushima indeed suggest that workers and mothers of young children are at risk of depression, anxiety, psychosomatic, and post-traumatic symptoms both as a direct result of their fears about radiation exposure and an indirect result of societal stigma. Thus, it is important that non-mental health providers learn to recognize and manage psychological symptoms and that medical programs be designed to reduce stigma and alleviate psychological suffering by integrating psychiatric and medical treatment within the walls of their clinics.Introduction of Emotional Consequences of Nuclear Power Plant Disasters (Video 2:15, http://links.lww.com/HP/A34).

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