More than 30 percent of children affected by the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami suffered from post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD), such as a prolonged state of anxiety and insomnia, about nine times more than ordinary children.
A survey was conducted by a health ministry study group about two years after the disaster, covering 198 children in the devastated prefectures of Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, as well as 82 children in unaffected Mie Prefecture.
The survey results were announced March 1. The children were aged 6 to 8 when the study group, made up of child psychiatrists, interviewed them and their parents.
Nearly 34 percent of the children in Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures were suffering from symptoms of PTSD, compared with 3.7 percent in Mie Prefecture.
In the three prefectures, 14 percent said they suffered flashbacks of painful experiences during the disaster or they repeatedly relived such experiences in dreams.
Seventeen percent said they could not remember what they had experienced or stayed away from where they were at the time of the disaster and avoided what they were doing.
Ten percent complained about suffering from insomnia and a heightened state of sensitivity.
“Children’s problems often go unnoticed because they cannot explain their conditions well,” said Takeo Fujiwara, a department director of the National Center for Child Health and Development and a member of the study group. “Experts should help teachers and nursery staff take appropriate steps.”
According to the survey, children tended to suffer from PTSD when they endured more painful experiences, such as the earthquake, tsunami, fire, separation from family and friends, and life in evacuation centers and temporary housing.