The study was done citing multiple high profile nuclear accidents in the past. The most recent of them was the the 2011 Fukushima disaster, when the ominous nuclear plant was damaged by the massive earthquakes and tsunami waves which hit Japan in one of the country’s worst-ever natural disasters, and ended up releasing radiation into the atmosphere.
Despite the fact that over 170,000 people were evacuated from the surrounding area, no victims of radiation exposure have been detected as of yet. The only expected future condition amongst those exposed would be an increased rate of thyroid cancers developing in the future – which would mean the ultimate consequences of the incident would be well below certain apocalyptic predictions.
However, the study points out to the fact that those exposed to the events at and near Fukushima first hand are five times more likely to have suffered a psychological hit. Most of this could probably relate to the incident being blown out of proportion and the normal panic regarding the invisible consequences it might have. At the same time, mass displacement of population groups tend to emphasize in their mind the gravity of the situation, while also marking an abrupt change from daily life.
The article’s authors believe that when it comes to nuclear catastrophes, the effects they have on the psychological state of populations which are exposed to them are greatly underrated. Pointing out the famous 1986 Chernobyl disaster, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder rates are still higher than usual amongst those who experienced the accident and its aftermath; while a 2006 UN report officially stated that deteriorating mental health became the worst public consequence of the accident.
Comparing Chernobyl with Fukushima might seem a bit out of place, since the former also caused more than 100 known hundred radiation related deaths and possibly thousands of other unknown medical side effects through the radiation cloud it dispersed, while the latter has no casualties to its name yet. But Fukushima Medical University’s Dr. Koichi Tanigawa claims that the level of psychological distress is quite similar, as the perceived threat of radiation poisoning will always be higher than it is actually.
One of the bigger problems are those relating to misconceptions and social stigmas stemming from non-founded rumors. A common example is the rumor that exposure to radiation will either affect fertility or cause problematic future births, which modify the social context within which affected people interact with each other and “outsiders”.
Image Source: Daily Mail