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Arch Environ Health. 2000 Mar-Apr;55(2):121-5.

Effect of the Hanshin-Awaji earthquake on posttraumatic stress, lifestyle changes, and cortisol levels of victims.

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  • 1Department of Social and Environmental Medicine, Graduate Course of Social Medicine, School of Medicine, Osaka University, Suita, Japan.


In 1995, the Hanshin-Awaji area in Japan was damaged severely by a major earthquake. In this study, the authors administered questionnaires and obtained blood samples to analyze the relationships among lifestyle, psychological stress, and plasma cortisol levels of victims. The authors questioned 107 male inhabitants of Awaji Island about their lifestyles before and after the earthquake, presence of any symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder, and demographic variables. Plasma cortisol levels were determined with enzyme immunoassay. Cortisol level was correlated strongly with change in lifestyle. The highest cortisol levels were found in the group characterized by a high posttraumatic stress disorder score and by a very profound lifestyle change. This group also contained the highest percentage of subjects who had poor health. In summary, the psychological stress induced by the Hanshin-Awaji earthquake was associated with mean cortisol level; however, this relationship was affected by adjustment of lifestyle.

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