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The Great East Japan Earthquake of 11 March 2011 led to the relocation of 300 000 survivors. Studies following disasters focus primarily on data collected in the immediate aftermath and neglect the influence of wider community factors.
A three-level prospective study examining associations between survivors' psychological distress and individual- and social-level factors in the 6 years following a complex disaster.
We drew on two multi-wave data collections in the 6 years after the earthquake, using residents from different forms of housing. Sample 1 included six waves of private-housing residents from 2011 to 2016 (n = 1084 per wave), sample 2 five waves of residents living in prefabricated housing from 2012 to 2016 (n = 1515 per wave). We analysed prospective associations between distress and time (level 1), pre-existing disorders and disaster experiences and behaviours (level 2) and city-wide measures of support and physical activity (level 3).
Multilevel models with random coefficients demonstrated greater distress in earlier waves (samples 1 and 2 respectively, adjusted β = −15 and β = −0.16, P < 0.001), among female respondents (β = 0.58, P = 0.01 and β = 1.74, P = 0.001), in those with a previous psychiatric history (β = 2.76, β = 2.06, P < 0.001) with diminished levels of activity post-earthquake (β = 1.40, β = 1.51, P < 0.001) and those lacking in social support (β = 1.95, β = 1.51, P < 0.001). Support from spouses and friends was most protective of psychological health. City-level support was negatively associated with distress, but only among those in prefabricated housing.
Psychological distress diminished with time, but varied across gender, psychiatric history, housing, levels of activity and availability of social support. Practitioners should consider individual- and city-level factors when devising effective interventions.
Social isolation and death alone in the prefabricated temporary housing after a disaster has been a social concern. The importance of social ties among the community has been suggested and several reports pointed out the positive effect of “group allocation” which preserves pre-existing local social ties compared to the “lottery allocation”.
Japan Red Cross Society recommended “group allocation” as a better option than “lottery allocation” on their guidelines. However, many municipalities carried out “lottery allocation” for temporary housing arrangement after the Great East Japan Earthquake (GEJE).
To collect the information about the accelerating factors and bottlenecks when practicing the “group allocation”.
In-depth interview was conducted between August and November 2013. Interviewees were the professionals of disaster management, individuals who were involved in arranging the prefabricated housing and the residents. This research was supported by the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology in Japan.
This study found the municipality which carried out “group allocation” had characteristics such as: (1.) the staff in charge of housing arrangement had the information about the positive effect of “group allocation”, and (2.) pre-existing community leaders were able to gather residents’ opinions, and citizens were involved in the decision making to some content.
Although this study is based on the experience of a limited number of key persons, it would be useful to give the insight about the possible bottleneck for the practitioners who will be in charge of housing arrangement under the disaster setting in future. Also, the relevancy and evidence about “group allocation” should be carefully examined in the context of preventing social isolation as well as various long-term effects. It would be essential that the knowledge and experience will be accumulated and shared between municipalities in a usable and comparable format.
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