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Effects of the Higashi-Nihon Earthquake: Posttraumatic Stress, Psychological Changes, and Cortisol Levels of Survivors

By Yuka Kotozaki and Ryuta Kawashima


On March 11, 2011, the Pacific side of Japan’s northeast was devastated by an earthquake and tsunami. For years, many researchers have been working on ways of examining the psychological effects of earthquakes on survivors in disaster areas who have experienced aftershocks, catastrophic fires, and other damage caused by the earthquake. The goal of this study is to examine scores on psychological measures and salivary cortisol level in these individuals both before and three months after the earthquake. The participants had been measured for these variables before the earthquake. After the earthquake, we carried out PTSD screening using CAPS for participants for another experiment, and then again conducted the aforementioned tests. We collected saliva samples from all survivors. Our results show that social relationship scores on the WHO-QOL26, negative mood scores of the WHO-SUBI, total GHQ score, POMS confusion scores, and CMI emotional status score after the earthquake showed scores indicating significantly decreased compared to before the earthquake. On the other hand, salivary cortisol levels after the earthquake was significantly increased compared to before the earthquake. Moreover, the result of a multiple regression analysis found that negative mood score on the WHO-SUBI and social relationship score on the WHO-QOL26 were significantly related to salivary cortisol levels. Our results thus demonstrate that several psychological stress induced by the earthquake was associated with an increase in salivary cortisol levels. These results show similar findings to previous study. We anticipate that this study will provide a better understanding of posttraumatic responses in the early stages of adaptation to the trauma and expand effective prevention strategies and countermeasures for PTSD

Topics: Research Article
Publisher: Public Library of Science
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Provided by: PubMed Central

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