On March 11, 2011, the Great East Japan Earthquake devastated the Tohoku region, which led to a tsunami and a nuclear disaster. While these three disasters caused tremendous physical damage, their psychological impact remains unclear. The present study evaluated traumatic responses, internalizing (i.e., anxiety and depression), and externalizing (i.e., anger) symptoms among Japanese young people in the immediate aftermath and 2.5 years later. A total of 435 undergraduates were recruited from universities in three differentially exposed regions: Fukushima, Tokyo, and Kyoto. They completed a set of questionnaires retrospectively (i.e., September to December 2013) to measure their traumatic responses, anxiety and depressive symptoms, functional impairment, and anger immediately after the disaster and 2.5 years later. Participants in Tokyo had the highest level of traumatic response and internalizing symptoms immediately after the earthquake, whereas those in Fukushima had significantly higher levels of trait anger, anger-in (holding one’s anger in), and anger-out (expressing one’s anger externally). In Kyoto, the levels of anxiety and depression after 2.5 years were significantly higher than they were immediately after the disasters. In conclusion, anger symptoms were high among young people who lived at or near the center of the disasters, while anxiety and depression were high among those who lived far away from the disasters. These findings suggest the importance of providing mental health services to young people who did not live near the disaster area as well as to those living in the directly affected area.
2015 Tohoku University Medical Press