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.
- Etiology/risk and protective factors
- PTSD phenomenology
- Posttraumatic growth