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The Fukushima Nuclear Energy Workers' Support (NEWS) Project Study previously showed that experiences related to the Fukushima nuclear disaster on 11 March 2011 had a great impact on psychological states, including post-traumatic stress response (PTSR) and general psychological distress (GPD), among the Fukushima nuclear plant workers. To determine the causal relationship between disaster-related experiences and levels of psychological states, we conducted a 3-year longitudinal study from 2011 to 2014.
PTSR and GPD of the nuclear plant workers were assessed by annual questionnaires conducted from 2011 to 2014. The present study included a total of 1417 workers who provided an assessment at baseline (2011). A total of 4160 observations were used in the present analysis. The relationship between disaster-related experiences and psychological states over time was analysed using mixed-effects logistic regression models.
A declining influence of disaster-related experiences on PTSR over time was found. However, the impact on PTSR remained significantly elevated even 3 years after the disaster in several categories of exposure including the experience of life-threatening danger, experiences of discrimination, the witnessing of plant explosion, the death of a colleague and home evacuation. The associations between GPD and disaster-related experiences showed similar effects.
The effects of disaster-related experiences on psychological states among the nuclear plant workers reduced over time, but remained significantly high even 3 years after the event.
The Fukushima Daiichi and Daini Nuclear Power Plant workers experienced multiple stressors as both victims and onsite workers after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent nuclear accidents. Previous studies found that disaster-related exposures, including discrimination/slurs, were associated with their mental health. Their long-term impact has yet to be investigated.
A total of 968 plant workers (Daiichi, n = 571; Daini, n = 397) completed self-written questionnaires 2–3 months (time 1) and 14–15 months (time 2) after the disaster (response rate 55.0%). Sociodemographics, disaster-related experiences, and peritraumatic distress were assessed at time 1. At time 1 and time 2, general psychological distress (GPD) and post-traumatic stress response (PTSR) were measured, respectively, using the K6 scale and Impact of Event Scale Revised. We examined multivariate covariates of time 2 GPD and PTSR, adjusting for autocorrelations in the hierarchical multiple regression analyses.
Higher GPD at time 2 was predicted by higher GPD at time 1 (β = 0.491, p < 0.001) and discrimination/slurs experiences at time 1 (β = 0.065, p = 0.025, adjusted R2 = 0.24). Higher PTSR at time 2 was predicted with higher PTSR at time 1 (β = 0.548, p < 0.001), higher age (β = 0.085, p = 0.005), and discrimination/slurs experiences at time 1 (β = 0.079, p = 0.003, adjusted R2 = 0.36).
Higher GPD at time 2 was predicted by higher GPD and discrimination/slurs experience at time 1. Higher PTSR at time 2 was predicted by higher PTSR, higher age, and discrimination/slurs experience at time 1.
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