Officials from Fukushima Prefecture have noted that more people have died due to stress and other illnesses related to the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami than the actual disasters themselves. Around 1,607 deaths were directly caused by the natural calamity, slightly lower than the 1,656 people reported by the police and prefecture authorities who have died due to disaster-related illnesses and conditions.
The devastation has displaced 136,000 people, most of whom need to still cope with the meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant reactor after the quake. Many of these people “have undergone drastic changes in their lives and are still unable to map out their future plans such as homecoming, causing increased stress on them,” said an official from Fukushima. Data compiled by the authorities of the Reconstruction Agency showed that an estimated 90 percent of those who died indirectly from the disasters were aged 66 years or older. Minamisoma city reported a death toll of 447, followed by the town of Namie with 317 and Tomioka with 225. All the three towns served as evacuation centers after the nuclear meltdown.
Indirect deaths by physical and mental stress were caused by prolonged living at shelters, lack of initial care which can only be delivered by hospitals that were disabled by the disaster, and suicides. The Health Ministry has already provided criteria to recognize if a death is disaster-linked as ministry officials said that they normally decrease a month after the incident occurred. Currently, there is still a continued rise of such cases almost three years after the disaster and some analysts believe that a new measure is now necessary to further analyze the effects this and the nuclear reactor meltdown is having on the evacuees and society in general.