Effect of Evacuation on Body Weight After the Great East Japan Earthquake

Am J Prev Med. 2016 May;50(5):553-560. doi: 10.1016/j.amepre.2015.10.008. Epub 2015 Dec 7.


Introduction: The Great East Japan Earthquake occurred on March 11, 2011, with a nuclear accident subsequently occurring at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant. The government ordered a mandatory evacuation from the high radioactive concentration area in Fukushima, which might have forced many evacuees to change particular aspects of their lifestyles. This study assessed the hypothesis that mean body weight and the proportion of overweight/obese individuals would increase among evacuees after versus before the disaster.

Methods: A longitudinal study examined data collected from 41,633 Japanese participants (mean age, 67 years) sourced from general health checkups conducted in 13 communities between 2008 and 2010. Follow-up examinations were conducted from June 2011 through March 2013.

Results: A total of 27,486 participants (12,432 men and 15,054 women; follow-up proportion, 66%) received follow-up examinations after the disaster, with an average follow-up of 1.6 years. Mean body weight significantly increased in both evacuees (n=9,671) and non-evacuees (n=17,815) after the disaster, with greater changes in body weight among evacuees than non-evacuees (+1.2 kg vs +0.3 kg, p<0.001). The proportion of overweight/obese people also increased among evacuees after the disaster, and evacuation was associated with an increased risk of being overweight, despite adjustments for confounding variables. The proportions of overweight evacuees before and after the disaster were 31.8% and 39.4%, respectively, whereas proportions among non-evacuees were 28.3% and 30.3%, respectively.

Conclusions: Body weight and the proportion of overweight/obese people increased among residents, especially evacuees, in the evacuation zone of Fukushima prefecture after the Great East Japan Earthquake.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Body Weight / physiology
  • Disasters
  • Earthquakes*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Fukushima Nuclear Accident*
  • Humans
  • Japan
  • Life Style
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Obesity / epidemiology*
  • Overweight / epidemiology*
  • Risk