Yesterday, I got to host an eye-opening Q&A with Dan Edge, a PBS FRONTLINE producer who just finished a documentary about what happened at Fukushima during the first few days of the nuclear crisis there.
During that discussion, we touched a bit on the psychological impact all of this—the earthquake, the tsunami, the nuclear meltdowns—has had on the Japanese people. From studies of what's happened to the people who lived near Chernobyl and Three Mile Island, we know that the fear and stress associated with these kinds of disasters can have complex and long-ranging health effects.
Today, Paul Voosen, a journalist with Greenwire, emailed me a story he wrote last year, during the first month of the Fukushima crisis, that delves into some of the science behind how disasters (and especially nuclear disasters) affect the human psyche. If you've already read it, it's worth reading again.
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Certainly, lasting scars of emotional distress -- which, at its worst, can manifest itself as serious depression or post-traumatic stress, among other symptoms -- are what researchers found in young mothers and others directly affected by past nuclear accidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and seven years later at the much more serious Chernobyl meltdown in Ukraine.
"What's most striking," Bromet said, "both about Three Mile Island and Chernobyl, which are obviously completely different events with different environmental consequences, is that the emotional consequences just never end."
The Fukushima crisis is, of course, an incredibly difficult situation for Japan's authorities and residents.