Social Connections Boost Resilience Among Elderly After Disaster []


By Karen Feldscher, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, October 8, 2019

In 2011, a massive earthquake struck off the coast of eastern Japan in 2011 and triggered devastating tsunami waves. Roughly 16,000 people were killed, more than a million buildings were damaged or destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of people were left homeless.

At the time, social epidemiologist Ichiro Kawachi was in the midst of a national study in Japan aimed at finding the factors that could lead to long-term physical or mental limitations in older age. After the disaster struck, he realized that health information that had already been collected for the study, from 22 locations throughout Japan, laid the groundwork for a natural experiment comparing how elderly people fared both before and after the disaster.

Kawachi, John L. Loeb and Frances Lehman Loeb Professor of Social Epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, spoke about his work at an October 2, 2019 talk at the School titled β€œDisaster Resilience in an Aging Society: Lessons from the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami.”

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