International Journal of Behavioral Medicine

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 1–10 | Cite as

Relationships Between Mental Health Distress and Work-Related Factors Among Prefectural Public Servants Two Months After the Great East Japan Earthquake

  • Maiko FukasawaEmail author
  • Yuriko Suzuki
  • Akiko Obara
  • Yoshiharu Kim



In times of disaster, public servants face multiple burdens as they engage in a demanding and stressful disaster-response work while managing their own needs caused by the disaster.


We investigated the effects of work-related factors on the mental health of prefectural public servants working in the area devastated by the Great East Japan Earthquake to identify some ideas for organizational work modifications to protect their mental health.


Two months after the earthquake, Miyagi prefecture conducted a self-administered health survey of prefectural public servants and obtained 4,331 (82.8 %) valid responses. We investigated relationships between mental health distress (defined as K6 ≥ 13) and work-related variables (i.e., job type, overwork, and working environment) stratified by level of earthquake damage experienced.


The proportion of participants with mental health distress was 3.0 % in the group that experienced less damage and 5.9 % in the group that experienced severe damage. In the group that experienced less damage, working >100 h of overtime per month (adjusted odds ratio [OR], 2.06; 95 % confidence interval [CI], 1.11–3.82) and poor workplace communication (adjusted OR, 10.96; 95 % CI, 6.63–18.09) increased the risk of mental health distress. In the group that experienced severe damage, handling residents’ complaints (adjusted OR, 4.79; 95 % CI, 1.55–14.82) and poor workplace communication (adjusted OR, 9.14; 95 % CI, 3.34–24.97) increased the risk, whereas involvement in disaster-related work (adjusted OR, 0.39; 95 % CI, 0.18–0.86) decreased the risk.


Workers who have experienced less disaster-related damage might benefit from working fewer overtime hours, and those who have experienced severe damage might benefit from avoiding contact with residents and engaging in disaster-related work. Facilitating workplace communication appeared important for both groups of workers.


Mental health Public servants Disaster-related work Overwork Great East Japan Earthquake 



We would like to express our deepest thanks to Ms. Rumiko Sasaki, Mr. Toshinori Ushibukuro, and Mr. Mitsunori Sato from the Division of Human Resources and Welfare of Miyagi prefectural government, and to Dr. Yuiko Kimura and Ms. Yumiko Moriya from Miyagi Prefectural Government Health Clinic. We also would like to acknowledge the dedicated coordination efforts of Ms. Akemi Toubai from Miyagi Mental Health and Welfare Center. This work was supported by Health and Labor Science Research Grants for Research on Psychiatric and Neurological Diseases and Mental Health (Grant No. 23201501) from the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare, Japan.

Ethical Considerations

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975 as revised in 2000. This study involved secondary analysis of existing data. The study protocol was reviewed and approved by the Ethics Committee of the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry.

Conflict of Interest



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Copyright information

© International Society of Behavioral Medicine 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maiko Fukasawa
    • 1
    Email author
  • Yuriko Suzuki
    • 1
  • Akiko Obara
    • 2
  • Yoshiharu Kim
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of Adult Mental Health, National Institute of Mental HealthNational Center of Neurology and PsychiatryKodairaJapan
  2. 2.Miyagi Mental Health and Welfare CenterOsakiJapan
  3. 3.National Information Center of Disaster Mental Health, National Institute of Mental HealthNational Center of Neurology and PsychiatryKodairaJapan

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