Prevalence and risk factors for depressive reaction among resident survivors after the tsunami following the Great East Japan Earthquake, March 11, 2011

PLoS One. 2014 Oct 3;9(10):e109240. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0109240. eCollection 2014.


Objectives: The Great East Japan Earthquake caused a gigantic tsunami which devastated coastal areas of northern Japan on 11 March 2011. Despite the large number of 'resident survivors' who continued to reside in their damaged houses on the second or upper floors, research on the mental health of these individuals has been limited. This study explored the prevalence of depressive reaction and risk factors for depressive reaction among these resident survivors.

Methods: A cross-sectional household health support needs screening was conducted for resident survivors in Higashi-Matsushima city, Miyagi prefecture, two to four months after the tsunami. The health interview that was conducted including mental status, assessed by the Patient Health Questionnaire-2 (PHQ-2).

Results: Of 5,454 respondents, 8.1% had depressive reaction. After adjustment by the number of weeks from the tsunami and the mortality rate at each respondent's place of residence, depressive reaction was significantly associated with house flooding below or above the ground floor (odds ratios of 1.92, 2.36, respectively), the unavailability of gas supply (odds ratio, 1.67), being female (odds ratio, 1.47), middle aged or elderly (odds ratios of 2.41, 2.42, respectively), regular intake of psychotropic medicine(s) since before the tsunami (odds ratio, 2.53) and the presence of one to five or more than six cohabiters (odds ratios of 0.61, 0.52, respectively).

Conclusions: The results suggest a considerable psychological burden (depressive reaction) following the tsunami among resident survivors. Special supports for families with psychiatric problems need to be considered among resident survivors. Restoration of lifeline utilities and the strengthening of social ties of persons living alone may help prevent depressive reaction among resident survivors after a tsunami.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Disaster Victims / psychology*
  • Disasters*
  • Earthquakes*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Japan / epidemiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Odds Ratio
  • Prevalence
  • Sex Factors
  • Tsunamis*

Grants and funding

This study was funded by Research Grant for International Health, H23-6, by the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare, Japan ( This work was also supported in part by Grants-in-Aid for Research from the National Center for Global Health and Medicine (26A-201). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.