Earthquakes: be social!

What happens to older people in an earthquake? Ichiro Kawachi talked about this recently at the Otago Medical School in Wellington. His study in Japan took advantage of the good data on older people in Japan, plus a more detailed study 7 months before the 2011 Japanese earthquake that was followed by the Fukushima nuclear station disaster.

He was surprised to find that the main long term effects were not PTSD or depression, but dementia and metabolic syndrome (a catch-all encompassing diabetes, blood pressure, and diabetes). However, the people with lots of social capital (friends, good neighbours, participation in groups, trust in others) were the least affected. Severe damage to your house, especially if you had to move out, made you more prone to these problems. One of the conclusions he made was that people whose houses were uninhabitable should be moved to temporary and permanent housing that tried to preserve neighbourhoods and groups, and more controversially, be settled away from fast food places as these led to increased obesity and related problems.  There was even a “herd immunity” where people with low social capital moved to new places together with their high-capital neighbours benefited.

You can view the talk (slides & audio) at https://youtu.be/5LE02b42Y1g

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