Survey of "black rain" sufferers reveals stress disorders

by Uzaemonnaotsuka Tokai, Staff Writer

The City of Hiroshima has announced the results of the first survey conducted on the psychological impact of “black rain” which fell on survivors of the atomic bombing in the aftermath of the blast. The findings were announced at the Investigative Research Study Group on the Actual Situation of the Atomic Bomb Damage on July 6. An expert explained that even more than 60 years after the bombing, researchers recognize that “people who were exposed to the black rain still suffer post-traumatic stress disorders (PTSD) as grave as survivors of the Great Hanshin Earthquake which occurred on January 17, 1995.”

The survey was conducted in and around the city between late June and November 2008. A total of 27,147 people responded to the survey out of 36,614 people to whom the City of Hiroshima sent questionnaires. The degree of PTSD was analyzed by a professional method called “IES-R.” In this method, people were asked to describe themselves by using certain descriptors, such as: 1) When I recall the experience, I flash back to emotions from that time, and 2) I try to avoid things which will remind me of the experience. Researchers then examined the survey answers and calculated them into numerical values, including those exposed to “heavy” and “light” rain. These numerical values indicate that sufferers of the black rain have a higher incidence of PTSD than people who did not experience the atomic bombing or the black rain.

Nozomu Asukai, deputy director of the Tokyo Institute of Psychiatry, analyzed the survey and commented, “The numerical values of A-bomb survivors exposed to the black rain are equivalent to those of survivors of the Great Hanshin Earthquake and the JR derailment accident at Amagasaki that occurred on April 25, 2005.”

In regard to factors producing stress, many of those exposed to the black rain cited their “fear of illnesses caused by radiation” and others reported experiencing “strong prejudice and discrimination” after the war.

After a careful examination of the results provided by 891 respondents, the city will compile the report for this fiscal year ending on March 31, 2010. The city plans to utilize the survey findings in urging the central government to recognize the “light rain area” as a “Health Examination Special Designated Area,” for which survivors can access relief measures. The “heavy rain area” is already recognized under the Atomic Bomb Survivors Relief Law.

(Originally published on July 7, 2009)

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