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Deutsches Institut für Japanstudien

Trust and Subjective Well-being after 3/11 – results of a DIJ-survey

Project duration: 2011-2015

In order to test to what extent the triple catastrophe has impacted on the psychosocial well-being of the Japanese population, the DIJ carried out a postal survey in September 2011. In order to be able to carry out detailed analyses of subgroups in the affected regions especially, data collection concentrated on two regions: Prefectures Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima, which were designated as “Tohoku” region, and prefectures Tokyo and Kanagawa, designated as “Kanto”. Coastal regions strongly affected by the tsunami of March 11 were not included, both out of ethical as well as logistic reasons. The two regions were selected to include one area which was directly and very strongly affected by the triple catastrophe, and one area which was affected less seriously, but where the catastrophe nevertheless had an impact. For each region a two-stage stratified random sample of 1700 respondents older than 20 years of age was drawn. With an overall return rate of 48%, samples of 809 and 823 respondents could be realized for the Tohoku and Kanto region respectively.

Data analysis is ongoing. Some results have already been published (compare below for more information). Further articles are under way.


Some results of the survey in a nutshell

Sixth months after the disaster, the population proves to be anxious, whilst trust in government and media is low. Worry and anxiety prove to have mainly two sources. One is fear of another natural disaster: 82% report being afraid of another earthquake of comparable magnitude. Similarly high is anxiety over the accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant: 81% of respondents in the Tohoku area and 69% in the Tokyo region fear radioactive contamination.

Meanwhile, trust in authorities that could help people estimate risks by providing expert knowledge is low. The government and media – entities that are expected to fulfill this role – are barely perceived as trustworthy: Only 6% say that they trust information published by the government about the nuclear accident. This low proportion is matched by the low percentage that trust information published by TEPCO (5%). Respondents hardly seemed to differentiate between the government and the operator of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Trust in the media also proved to be low: Only 13% believe that news coverage is objective and comprehensive. Compared to results of an earlier DIJ-survey, this constitutes a clear drop from 24% in 2009.

Trust levels vary by personal affliction: Respondents who were personally affected by the disaster had significantly lower trust in the government and media. Their trust in family, friends and their local community, however, was above average. Furthermore, among young respondents, personal affliction was connected to a strong motivation to become actively engaged in the recovery of the local community.

Recent Publications

Hommerich, Carola
Trust and Subjective Well-being after the Great East Japan Earthquake, Tsunami and Nuclear Meltdown: Preliminary Results
In: International Journal of Japanese Sociology pp. 46-64.


Carola Hommerich Carola Hommerich (until August 2015)