Psychiatric Quarterly

, Volume 87, Issue 2, pp 241–251 | Cite as

Post-traumatic Stress and Growth Among Medical Student Volunteers After the March 2011 Disaster in Fukushima, Japan: Implications for Student Involvement with Future Disasters

  • David Anderson
  • Phoebe Prioleau
  • Kanako Taku
  • Yu Naruse
  • Hideharu Sekine
  • Masaharu Maeda
  • Hirooki Yabe
  • Craig Katz
  • Robert Yanagisawa
Original Paper

Abstract

The March 2011 “triple disaster” (earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear accident) had a profound effect on northern Japan. Many medical students at Fukushima Medical University volunteered in the relief effort. We aimed to investigate the nature of students’ post-disaster involvement and examine the psychological impact of their experiences using a survey containing elements from the Davidson Trauma Scale and Posttraumatic Growth Inventory. We collected 494 surveys (70 % response rate), of which 132 students (26.7 %) had volunteered. Volunteers were more likely to be older, have witnessed the disaster in person, had their hometowns affected, and had a family member or close friend injured. In the month after 3/11, volunteers were more likely to want to help, feel capable of helping, and report an increased desire to become a physician. Both in the month after 3/11 and the most recent month before the survey, there were no significant differences in distressing symptoms, such as confusion, anger, or sadness, between volunteers and non-volunteers. Volunteers reported a significantly higher level of posttraumatic growth than non-volunteers. Participating in a greater variety of volunteer activities was associated with a higher level of posttraumatic growth, particularly in the Personal Strength domain. There may be self-selection in some criteria, since students who were likely to be resistant to confusion/anxiety/sadness may have felt more capable of helping and been predisposed to volunteer. However, participation in post-disaster relief efforts did not appear to have a harmful effect on medical students, an important consideration for mobilizing volunteers after future disasters.

Keywords

Medical student volunteerism 3/11 Posttraumatic growth Posttraumatic stress response Disaster mental health Natural disasters 

References

  1. 1.
    Goldmann E, Galea S: Mental health consequences of disasters. Annual Review of Public Health 35:169–183, 2014.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  2. 2.
    Emergency Disaster Countermeasures Headquarters: Damage situation and police countermeasures associated with 2011 Tohoku district of the Pacific Ocean Earthquake. National Police Agency of Japan. 2015. http://www.npa.go.jp/archive/keibi/biki/higaijokyo_e.pdf. Accessed 29 Apr 2015.
  3. 3.
    Reconstruction Agency of Japan: Current situation and challenges of reconstruction after 4 years (in Japanese). 2015. http://www.reconstruction.go.jp/topics/main-cat1/sub-cat1-1/150313_gennjyoutokadai.pdf. Accessed 29 Apr 2015.
  4. 4.
    Yamashita J, Shigemura J: The great east Japan earthquake, tsunami, and Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant accident: A triple disaster affecting the mental health of the country. Psychiatric Clinics of North America 36(3):351–370, 2013.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  5. 5.
    Fukushima Medical University: Fukushima: Lives on the line. (2012). http://www.fmu.ac.jp/univ/en/about/e_dbook.html. Accessed 29 Apr 2015.
  6. 6.
    Bunevicius A, Katkute A, Bunevicius R: Symptoms of anxiety and depression in medical students and in humanities students: Relationship with big-five personality dimensions and vulnerability to stress. International Journal of Social Psychiatry 54(6):494–501, 2008.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  7. 7.
    Mavor KI, McNeill KG, Anderson K, Kerr A, O’Reilly E, Platow MJ: Beyond prevalence to process: the role of self and identity in medical student well-being. Medical Education 48(4):351–360, 2014.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  8. 8.
    Roberts LW, Warner TD, Lyketsos C, Frank E, Ganzini L, Carter D: Perceptions of academic vulnerability associated with personal illness: a study of 1,027 students at nine medical schools. Collaborative Research Group on Medical Student Health. Comprehensive Psychiatry 42(1):1–15, 2001.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  9. 9.
    Kaiser HE, Barnett DJ, Hsu EB, Kirsch TD, James JJ, Subbarao I: Perspectives of future physicians on disaster medicine and public health preparedness: Challenges of building a capable and sustainable auxiliary medical workforce. Disaster medicine and public health preparedness. 3(4):210–216, 2009.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  10. 10.
    Katz CL, Gluck N, Maurizio A, DeLisi LE: The medical student experience with disasters and disaster response. CNS Spectrums. 7(8):604–610, 2002.PubMedGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Shiri S, Wexler ID, Alkalay Y, Meiner Z, Kreitler S: Positive psychological impact of treating victims of politically motivated violence among hospital-based health care providers. Psychotherapy and psychosomatics 77(5):315–318, 2008.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Taubman-Ben-Ari O, Weintroub A: Meaning in life and personal growth among pediatric physicians and nurses. Death Studies 32(7):621–645, 2008.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Davidson JR, Book SW, Colket JT, Tupler LA, Roth S, David D et al.: Assessment of a new self-rating scale for post-traumatic stress disorder. Psychological Medicine 27(1):153–160, 1997.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Tedeschi RG, Calhoun LG: The Posttraumatic Growth Inventory: measuring the positive legacy of trauma. Journal of Trauma Stress 9(3):455–471, 1996.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar
  15. 15.
    Fukushima Medical University: FMU Factbook (in Japanese). (2014). http://www.fmu.ac.jp/univ/daigaku/pdf/youran/25youran.pdf Accessed 29 Apr 2015.
  16. 16.
    Adams RE, Boscarino JA: Volunteerism and well-being in the context of the world trade center terrorist attacks. International journal of emergency mental health 17(1):274–282, 2015.PubMedPubMedCentralGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Yehuda R. Post-traumatic stress disorder. New England Journal of Medicine 346(2):108–114, 2002.CrossRefPubMedGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • David Anderson
    • 1
  • Phoebe Prioleau
    • 1
  • Kanako Taku
    • 2
  • Yu Naruse
    • 3
  • Hideharu Sekine
    • 4
  • Masaharu Maeda
    • 5
  • Hirooki Yabe
    • 6
  • Craig Katz
    • 7
  • Robert Yanagisawa
    • 8
  1. 1.Icahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Department of PsychologyOakland UniversityRochesterUSA
  3. 3.Fukushima Medical UniversityFukushimaJapan
  4. 4.International Exchange AffairsFukushima Medical UniversityFukushimaJapan
  5. 5.Department of Disaster PsychiatryFukushima Medical UniversityFukushimaJapan
  6. 6.Department of NeuropsychiatryFukushima Medical UniversityFukushimaJapan
  7. 7.Departments of Psychiatry and Medical EducationIcahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiNew YorkUSA
  8. 8.Division of Endocrinology, Department of MedicineIcahn School of Medicine at Mount SinaiNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations