209484 Physiological and psychological vulnerability of the elderly to earthquakes: Examination of age and gender differences

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Kaori Kurihara, MPH , California State University Fullerton, Long Beach, CA
Each year earthquakes take many lives worldwide. Various studies have identified the risk factors for injury due the initial impact of the earthquakes which include: being closer to the epicenter, its magnitude, the individual's physical location at the time of the incidence, gender, age and the type of the building structure. Physiological and psychological impacts on earthquake victims are also a major part of the earthquake studies. Among these studies, a higher rate of health decline among the elderly after the earthquake has been suggested. Specific risk factors pertaining to this population include impaired physical mobility, pre-existing medical conditions, and lower economic status. This study investigated the earthquake in Niigata in 2004 to assess the physical and psychological status of elderly victims. 312 participants with age ranging from 20-97 years were interviewed by public health nurses immediately following the earthquake to assess their health status. The physical and psychological assessments include cardiovascular, digestive, cold, musculoskeletal, and psychological symptoms. Assessments on needs of support include medical, mental, assisting daily activity, and health consultation. The result indicated no significant decline in physical and psychological status among elderly individuals. Higher prevalence of psychological symptoms was found among the individuals age 40-64. The findings suggest that elderly individuals maybe physically and psychologically resilient immediately following the earthquake.

Learning Objectives:
1. Recognize risk that elderly victims may encounter at the earthquake. 2. Identify differences in psychological and physical responses to earthquake among different age groups.

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I have a master of public health degree and this research was conducted as a result of completing my degree.
Any relevant financial relationships? No

I agree to comply with the American Public Health Association Conflict of Interest and Commercial Support Guidelines, and to disclose to the participants any off-label or experimental uses of a commercial product or service discussed in my presentation.