Increase in the number of admissions to psychiatric hospitals immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake

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Abstract

Introduction

Major natural disasters have a significant impact on the mental health of survivors in affected communities. Although it has been speculated that the number of survivors requiring admission to psychiatric hospital increases immediately after a major disaster, few studies have examined the issue.

Methods

On March 11, 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake and subsequent tsunami devastated the relatively isolated city of Kesennuma. We therefore compared the weekly number of patients admitted to 2 psychiatric hospitals in Kesennuma in the 4 weeks immediately after the earthquake with those in the 4 weeks immediately preceding the earthquake. We also made comparisons between this 8-week period and the corresponding 8-week periods in 2009, 2010, and 2012.

Results

The number of patients admitted to the 2 psychiatric hospitals increased in 4 weeks after the disaster in 2011, with a weekly median (range) of 13 (9-16), compared with 6 (5-9) in the preceding 4 weeks in 2011. The corresponding figures were 5.5 (2-10) in 2009, 6.5 (5-9) in 2010, and 4 (3-7) in 2012 (P = .01, H = 13.05). By diagnostic category, admissions for schizophrenia spectrum disorder and neurotic stress-related disorder increased significantly following the disaster.

Discussion

Demands for inpatient psychiatric treatment increased immediately after the Great East Japan Earthquake. Government officials and mental health professionals must strengthen support for survivors with mental illness, especially those with schizophrenia spectrum disorder. This should include support for mental health authorities and medical staff in the affected community.

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