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Longitudinal changes in body mass index of children affected by the Great East Japan Earthquake

International Journal of Obesity volume 41, pages 606612 (2017) | Download Citation



The evacuation and disruption in housing caused by the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and following nuclear radiation may have influenced child health in many respects. However, studies regarding longitudinal childhood growth are limited. Therefore, in this study we aimed to explore the influence of the earthquake on longitudinal changes in body mass index in preschool children.


Participants were children from nursery schools who cooperated with the study in the Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima prefectures. The exposed group consisted of children who experienced the earthquake during their preschool-age period (4–5 years old). The historical control group included children who were born 2 years earlier than the exposed children in the same prefectures. Trajectories regarding body mass index and prevalence of overweight/obesity were compared between the two groups using multilevel analysis. Differences in the changes in BMI between before and after the earthquake, and proportion of overweight/obesity was compared between the two groups. We also conducted subgroup analysis by defining children with specific personal disaster experiences within the exposed group.


A total of 9722 children were included in the study. Children in the exposed group had higher body mass indices and a higher proportion of overweight after the earthquake than the control group. These differences were more obvious when confined to exposed children with specific personal disaster experiences.


Children’s growth and development-related health issues such as increased BMI after natural disasters should evoke great attention.

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We would like to thank the participants for providing their information and the staff of the participant nursery schools for their efforts during the data collection. This study is a part of a surveillance study of child health in the Great East Japan Earthquake disaster area (Health Labour Sciences Research Grant, Principal investigator is Shigeo Kure).

Author information


  1. Department of Social Medicine and Health Education, School of Public Health, Peking University Health Science Center, Beijing, China

    • W Zheng
  2. Department of Health Sciences, Interdisciplinary Graduate School of Medicine and Engineering, University of Yamanashi, Chuo, Japan

    • W Zheng
    • , H Yokomichi
    •  & Z Yamagata
  3. International Research Institute of Disaster Science, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan

    • H Matsubara
    •  & S Kuriyama
  4. Department of Biobank, Tohoku Medical Megabank Organization, Sendai, Japan

    • M Ishikuro
    •  & M Kikuya
  5. Department of Pediatrics, The University of Tokyo, Tokyo, Japan

    • T Isojima
  6. Center for Clinical Research Data, National Center for Child Health and Development, Tokyo, Japan

    • S Yokoya
  7. Japanese Association for Human Auxology, Tokyo, Japan

    • T Tanaka
  8. Department of Health Promotion, National institute of Public Health, Tokyo, Japan

    • N Kato
  9. Department of Pediatrics, Iwate Medical University, Morioka, Japan

    • S Chida
  10. Department of Pediatrics, Fukushima Medical University, Fukushima, Japan

    • A Ono
    •  & M Hosoya
  11. Department of Pediatrics, Tohoku University, Sendai, Japan

    • S Tanaka
    •  & S Kure


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Competing interests

The authors declare no conflict of interest.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Z Yamagata.

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