Trauma and Stress Among Japanese Journalists

Miho Hatanaka and her colleagues shared several English abstracts of their work on the impact of trauma and stress on journalists with Elana Newman and Kelsey Parker, who have provided a brief overview of the research findings. Click here for English abstracts from 11 journal articles and six conference presentations.

Incredible strides are being made to understand traumatic stress reactions among journalists across the globe. However, the language barrier between English speaking audiences and non-English language research has hindered the flow of information and resulted in a lack of common knowledge about the experiences of journalists around the world. Miho Hatanaka and her colleagues are one of many research teams around the world who are studying the impact of trauma and stress on journalists. Much of their well-respected work has been published in Japanese journals and presented at international conferences over the last several years. Recently, Hatanaka shared with us several English abstracts of their work, including eleven journal articles and six conference presentations. We are happy to provide a brief overview (In English) of their fascinating research findings.

Trauma and Stress Exposure

  • Over 90% of the 1073 Japanese broadcasting journalists and 80% of the 810 Japanese newspaper journalists surveyed reported experiencing a traumatic event over the course of their career (Hatanaka, Koshiro, Fukuoka, Matsui, Ando, Inoue, & Itamura, 2007; Hatanaka, Yuki, Fukuoka, Matsui, Ando, Inoue, & Itamura, 2009).
  • Almost all Japanese journalists report experiencing work-related stress. For managers, this stress often stems from finding time to communicate with their subordinates. For non-managers, stress is most often associated with lack of experience as a journalist, heavy workload, busy schedules, and inability to achieve the desired level of quality in their work (Fukuoka, Koshiro, Hatanaka, Matsui, Ando, Inoue, & Itamura, 2007; Fukuoka, Inoue, Matsui, Ando, Yuki, Hatanaka, & Itamura, 2010).

Effects of Trauma and Stress Exposure

  • Of the Japanese broadcast journalists who experienced a traumatic event during their career, 90% reported negative psychological effects (e.g., feeling helpless, feeling overwhelmed) and 40% reported negative physical effects (e.g., loss of appetite and upset stomach) associated with experiencing the traumatic event (Hatanaka et al., 2007).
  • 70% of the Japanese newspaper journalists who experienced a traumatic event reported experiencing negative psychological effects (e.g. feelings of helplessness, depression; Hatanaka et al., 2009)
  • Experiencing traumatic events appears to have a stronger negative impact on journalists who are not managers compared to journalists in managerial positions. Additionally, non-managers report being less mentally healthy than managers regardless of trauma exposure (Hatanaka et al., 2009).
  • After covering the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, many journalists reported experiencing symptoms of psychosomatic stress. Among the 120 journalists surveyed, it was found that females experienced more stress compared to males and married journalists with children experienced more stress than married journalists without children (Takahashi, Fukuoka, Ando, Matsui, Inoue, & Hatanaka, 2012).
  • Approximately 24% of the 118 journalists surveyed after covering The Great East Japan Earthquake met the cutoff for probable PTSD diagnoses using the IES-R (Fukuoka, Takahashi, Matsui, Ando, Inoue, & Hatanaka, 2012).

Stress Care in Journalism Organizations

  • 19% of newspaper and 40% of broadcast organizations report having critical stress care systems in place to help their employees who have experienced a traumatic event while covering a disaster. However, only 2-6% of the 211 journalists surveyed reported using these services. The main reasons given for not using stress care services include being too busy and feeling reluctant to visit the clinics (Matsui, Yuki, Fukuoka, Ando, Inoue, Hatanaka, & Itamura, 2010).
  • Japanese journalists tend to be opposed to discussing their feelings of distress with others and feel that discussing distress is not an effective way to relieve it (Yuki, Hatanaka, Fukuoka, Inoue, Itamura, Matsui, & Ando, 2010).  
  • Managers and non-managers in both broadcast and print organizations do not seem to view managerial and organizational responses to stress in the same manner. Although 73% of managers felt that they listened to and understood their subordinates’ feelings, only 28% of workers perceived their superiors as doing this. Also, although 43% of managers said that they tried to reduce their subordinates’ workloads in order to relieve stress, only 18% of workers perceived a reduced workload (Fukuoka, Inoue, Ando, Hatanaka, Yuki, & Itamura, 2010).

This team of researchers, the Journalists’ Critical Incident Stress (CIS) Research Group, has contributed a great deal to the field of journalism and trauma, particularly distinctions between managers and non-managers’ experiences. It will be important to evaluate to what degree the distinctions between managers and non-managers exist in other countries. We encourage everyone to read the full abstracts here (insert link/attachment)