254051 Psychological and Welfare Consequences of the Chernobyl Disaster:A Systematic Literature Review, Focus Group Findings, and Future Directions

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Sonny S. Patel, MPH , Department of Preventive Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Introduction: On April 26, 1986, a nuclear disaster occurred at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant, contaminating areas of what are now modern-day Belarus, Moldova, Russia, and Ukraine. Beyond radiation exposure and cancer risks, the disaster led to the imposition of diverse acute and chronic stressors on the people living around the site. Principal among the potential health effects from these stressors are psychological consequences, including ongoing psychological stress, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and diminished well-being. Methods: Through a systematic literature review of psychological outcomes of the Chernobyl disaster, 50 publications were identified and evaluated. Results have been classified into the outcomes ofanxiety (n=14), depression (n=11), PTSD (n=7), well-being problems (n=22), and cognitive problems (n=18). Ten 1.5-hour focus groups (100 people total) were conducted in March 2011 to attain a broad survey of the critical health concerns of the residents in Kiev, Ukraine. Discussions were in Russian and recorded for analysis. Results: Based on the systematic review, there is evidence for adverse psychological and welfare consequences of the Chernobyl disaster. The focus group discussions gave useful insights regarding people's perceptions, concerns, and attitudes towards their health and the current state of health care in Kiev. Among the main concerns on the future health consequences of the Chernobyl disaster, children were said to be in urgent need of more detailed investigation of their physical and mental health. Conclusion: The broad findings from the two sources of data are convergent and clear: twenty-five years after the Chernobyl disaster, the communities affected at the time, whether by being displaced or exposed to radiation, have sustained neuropsychological consequences and these consequences remain of public health and medical significance. At the 25th anniversary year of the disaster, it would be timely to give greater discussion to the topic of long-term neuropsychological consequences.

Learning Areas:
Public health or related research

Learning Objectives:
Assess research conducted on health effects other than cancer among communities affected by the Chernobyl disaster. Ascertain the most critical health concerns for the residents in Kiev, Ukraine using focus groups. Explore future research directions on the neuropsychological consequences of the Chernobyl Disaster.

Keywords: Radiation, Environmental Health

Presenting author's disclosure statement:

Qualified on the content I am responsible for because: I am qualified to present because I oversee the research project from start to finish. I have earned a Master in Public Health from the University of Southern California and a Bachelor of Arts from the University of California, Berkeley. I currently work as a research associate under Dr. Jonathan Samet at the University of Southern California.
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.