Public anxiety after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake: Fluctuations in hazard perception after catastrophe

Kazuya Nakayachi, Hiromi M. Yokoyama, Satoko Oki

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Citations (Scopus)


In 2011, Japan received a massive blow from the Tohoku Earthquake and the ensuing disaster at the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Generation Plant (hereafter, the Fukushima Nuclear Plant), with 18,000 people dead or missing, and more than 330,000 evacuated long-term. Anxiety among the people of Japan concerning earthquakes and nuclear accidents is higher than ever, but other hazards confront them as well. This research investigated whether the Japanese peoples anxiety about a variety of other hazards has increased or decreased since the Tohoku Earthquake. Based on the availability heuristic, the contrast effect, and the finite-pool-of-worry hypothesis, it was predicted that public anxiety about earthquakes and nuclear accidents would increase, but anxiety about other hazards would decrease. Data from two nationwide surveys conducted in January 2008 and January 2012 were compared to see the change in societal levels of anxiety toward 51 types of hazards. The results showed that anxiety had increased after the Tohoku Earthquake for only one hazard other than earthquakes and nuclear accidents. For 29 other hazards, the anxiety levels had significantly decreased; and for the remaining 19 hazards, there was no significant change. These results support the prediction, indicating that post-disaster, the overall anxiety levels of the Japanese people tended to decline. Practical implications were discussed with a focus on problems that might be caused by the changes in anxiety level. & copy; 2013

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)156-169
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Risk Research
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Feb 7


  • affect
  • disaster
  • earthquake
  • hazard perception
  • nuclear accident
  • public anxiety

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • General Social Sciences
  • General Engineering
  • Strategy and Management


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