Natural Disasters and Physical Health: Evidence From the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

Yuka Minagawa , Sophia University
Yasuhiko Saito, Nihon University

Guided by a Disablement Process perspective, this study examined how the exposure to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami was related to the prevalence and incidence of disability among Japanese elders. Data came from two waves (2009-2013) of the Nihon University Japanese Longitudinal Study of Aging (NUJLSOA). We documented a significant association between the disaster experience and disability. Men and women who were affected by the event exhibited greater odds of (1) reporting disability in 2013; and (2) developing disability between 2009 and 2013. Results remained significant when socio-demographic characteristics were accounted for. The Disablement Process posits that disability is "a gap between personal capability and environmental demand." Our results suggest that natural disasters destroy social infrastructure and disrupt daily life, thereby widening the gap between environment and personal resources. More policy attention needs to be directed toward reducing adverse health consequences of natural disasters among older people.

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 Presented in Session 11. Health & Mortality 2