Medical Student Reactions to Disaster after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake: Motivation and Posttraumatic Growth

Kanako Taku, Phoebe G. Prioleau, David S. Anderson, Yuzo Takeguchi, Hideharu Sekine, Masaharu Maeda, Hirooki Yabe, Robert T. Yanagisawa, Craig L. Katz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


Medical students often become involved as post-disaster emergency responders despite incomplete training, and in doing so may suppress their immediate experiences as victims and survivors. This experience, however, may lead them to increase their motivation to help others. We examined how cognitive and emotional reactions to disaster correlated with posttraumatic growth (PTG) in medical students in Fukushima, Japan after the Great East Japan Earthquake of March 11, 2011. To date, Fukushima continues to suffer from radiation concerns following the nuclear power plant meltdown. In a survey three years after the onset of a long-term disaster, with a cross-sectional research design, medical students (N = 494) reported their negative post-disaster reactions, desire to help, and demonstrations of capability, and completed the Posttraumatic Growth Inventory (PTGI). We conducted hierarchical regression analyses and found that the addition of variables pertaining to negative post-disaster reactions (e.g. confusion, anger, and sadness) led to the largest increase in predictive value for PTGI scores; students reporting a past traumatic experience were also more likely to experience PTG. Our results indicate that weathering stressful disaster circumstances created opportunities for positive personal growth and reinforcement at a crucial time in medical students’ professional development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1007-1018
Number of pages12
JournalPsychiatric Quarterly
Issue number4
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2018


  • Disaster
  • Etiology/risk and protective factors
  • PTSD phenomenology
  • Posttraumatic growth
  • Resilience


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