New research into the effect that disasters have on health has renewed calls for better prevention strategies and follow-up support.

A team from Osaka University has found that diseases such as hypertension and diabetes increased in prevalence following the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the outbreak of COVID-19.

They set out to compare the secondary health effects of people who experienced the two major events and have identified similarities and differences.

The researchers found that rates of hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, and mental disorders rose in the Fukushima Prefecture after the nuclear disaster, and increased across the whole of Japan after the pandemic.

Following the Fukushima disaster, the increase was higher in females aged from 40 to 74, while the prevalence of these conditions was greater among men aged from 0 to 39 after the Covid-19 outbreak.

Lead author Michio Murakami said: “This study has shed some light on identifying the vulnerable populations involved and assessing the secondary effect of disasters on the mental and physical health of these people.”

A previous study showed that, seven years after the Fukushima disaster, rates of diabetes increased considerably, while restrictions implemented during the pandemic, when people were encouraged to stay at home, could have contributed to weight gain and mental disorders.

Researchers in the latest study reviewed a health insurance dataset over a long period of time, with the results analysed by age and sex to see which groups were most affected.

The findings support efforts to improve post-disaster health improvement strategies.

Read the study in the journal International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction.

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