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Environ Health Perspect. 1997 Dec; 105(Suppl 6): 1533–1537.
PMCID: PMC1469920
Research Article

Health effects of the Chernobyl disaster: illness or illness behavior? A comparative general health survey in two former Soviet regions.


Results are described of a general health survey (n = 3044) that was conducted 6.5 years after the Chernobyl accident in 1986 in a seriously contaminated region in Belarus and a socioeconomically comparable, but unaffected, region in the Russian Federation. The purpose of the study was to investigate whether there are differences in the general health status of the inhabitants of the two regions that may be attributed to the Chernobyl disaster. A broad-based population sample from each of these regions was studied using a variety of self-report questionnaires. A subsample (n = 449) was further examined with a standardized physical and psychiatric examination. The results show significantly higher scores on the self-report questionnaires and higher medical service utilization in the exposed region. No significant differences were observed in global clinical indices of health. Although there were trends for some disorders to be more prevalent in the exposed region, none of these could be directly attributed to exposure to ionizing radiation. The results of this study suggest that the Chernobyl disaster had a significant long-term impact on psychological well-being, health-related quality of life, and illness behavior in the exposed population.

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Selected References

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