Cases of blood clots among evacuees living in temporary housing units in Iwate and Miyagi prefectures have risen significantly in the past four years, research shows.
Local doctors and a team from Niigata University have been examining the health of evacuees who lost their homes in the March 2011 earthquake and tsunami disaster.
The researchers include Shinsaku Ueda, a doctor at the Japanese Red Cross Ishinomaki Hospital, Kazuhiro Sasaki, a doctor at the Morioka Municipal Hospital, and Kazuhiko Hanzawa, a lecturer at Niigata University’s School of Medicine.
Diagnoses via ultrasound made shortly after the disaster in the city of Ishinomaki, Miyagi Prefecture, revealed that 7.1 percent of evacuees had blood clots in veins in their calves. The rate continued to rise for those who subsequently moved into temporary housing, hitting 18.4 percent in 2014.
However, the rate remained stable at 8.1 percent for those who were able to return home, suggesting a lack of exercise among those who lost their jobs and homes played a major factor in the increase.
In Iwate Prefecture, the ratio of residents with blood clots in 2014 was 12.7 percent, up nearly three-fold from 4.3 percent in autumn 2011. In the coastal town of Otsuchi, the rate tripled to 13.1 percent during the period.
Blood clots often form due to a lack of physical activity, and can result in sudden death if blood vessels in the lungs become blocked, known as pulmonary embolism and commonly called “economy class syndrome.”
The study was published on the Japanese Association for Disaster Medicine forum.
Referring to the phenomenon of “lonely deaths” among the elderly at temporary housing communities where there is nobody there to look after them, Ueda said, “The risk of ‘kodokushi’ and declining health will most certainly be increasing.”