Objective: Reports have described how hospitalized psychiatric patients respond to disasters; however, few reports have described the response to disaster among psychiatric outpatients, who have relatively mild disease in comparison with hospitalized, severely ill psychiatric patients. Here the investigators have analyzed the response to disaster among this under-studied population.
Method: The Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011, was a catastrophic disaster. The investigators studied psychiatric change among a population of psychiatric outpatients in Tochigi prefecture, located ~160 km (~100 miles) southeast of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, in an area that suffered moderate damage from the earthquake. A total of 328 psychiatric outpatients were enrolled and were grouped into the diagnostic categories F2 (schizophrenic, schizotypal, and delusional disorders), F3 (affective disorders), and F4 (neurotic, stress-related, and somatoform disorders). All diagnoses were made using International Classification of Diseases (ICD) 10 criteria. Changes in symptoms were measured as a change in psychotropic medication after the disaster.
Primary Outcome Measures:
- Patient progress determined by whether a change in medication was needed. [ Time Frame: 2 months after the disaster ]
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Patient progress was determined by whether a change in medication was needed. We focused on psychotropic drug use, including the use of neuroleptics, antidepressants, and benzodiazepines, directly after the disaster on March 11, 2011. Changes in other psychotropic drugs that are prescribed less frequently, such as lithium or anticonvulsants, were not considered in this study. Changes in symptoms that did not require a need to change psychotropic medications were not considered as part of a patient's progress. Physicians rated the relationship between each change in psychotropic drug and the disaster as direct, indirect, or not relevant. Only when three physicians rated the relationship as direct did we consider the change in a patient's progress to be due to the earthquake. Worsening or improvement of symptoms was defined as a change in psychotropic medications as a result of the deterioration or improvement, respectively, of symptoms. The data were stratified by disease category and sex and analyzed using chi-square tests.