The evacuation and disruption in housing caused by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and following nuclear radiation may have influenced child health in many respects. However, studies regarding longitudinal childhood growth are limited. Therefore, in this study we aimed to explore the influence of the earthquake on longitudinal changes in body mass index in preschool children.METHODS:
Participants were children from nursery schools who cooperated with the study in the Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. The exposed group consisted of children who experienced the earthquake during their preschool-age period (4-5 years old). The historical control group included children who were born 2 years earlier than the exposed children in the same prefectures. Trajectories regarding body mass index and prevalence of overweight/obesity were compared between the two groups using multilevel analysis. Differences in the changes in BMI between before and after the earthquake, and proportion of overweight/obesity was compared between the two groups. We also conducted subgroup analysis by defining children with specific personal disaster experiences within the exposed group.RESULTS:
A total of 9722 children were included in the study. Children in the exposed group had higher body mass indices and a higher proportion of overweight after the earthquake than the control group. These differences were more obvious when confined to exposed children with specific personal disaster experiences.CONCLUSIONS:
Children's growth and development-related health issues such as increased BMI after natural disasters should evoke great attention.