Fear of Radiation is a Bigger Health Risk Than Radiation Itself
A top expert on radiation, doing studies for the World Health Organization, reports that fear of radiation exposure has caused more health problems than the radiation itself. Other experts on psychological effects of radiation agree. In addition to the fear of the effects of the radiation, survivors are stigmatized by their society, increasing stress and feelings of isolation. This stigmatization can interfere with the survivors getting proper health care, jobs, and economic stability. Others turn away from them, fearing that association with those who have been exposed to radiation can be "catching." Experts who have studied these impacts at Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, Nagasaki, and Hiroshima, say that the fear and stigmatization causes so much stress in the people affected that, overall, the stress is more damaging to health than the radiation itself.
This is a similar finding to that associated with the stigmatization of HIV/AIDs patients. Because others fear the disease, those affected by it may not get the treatment and care needed. The impact of the social stigma increases the stress and fear, which dramatically increases all forms of health problems.
Steven Becker, of the University of Alabama, who studied the psychological impact of other radiation events, says people who are suspected of being exposed to radiation suffer from economic discrimination by the society. Others are afraid to do business with them, visit them, or let them travel and stay in hotels. This leads to a culture of hopelessness, which is passed down through generations. On an individual level, anxiety disorders and depression contribute to an overall health degeneration. Radiation ranks near the top of the list of things people fear deeply.
The many stresses of our lives have deep and lasting impacts on our health. Those things which we fear will happen can do more damage than those things that actually happen. A culture of fear can be passed on to our children, damaging an entire society for decades. Information and education are the best tools to combat fear.