Child and Adolescent Suicide Risk Following the Chernobyl Disaster

  • Vsevolod A. RozanovEmail author
Part of the Integrating Psychiatry and Primary Care book series (IPPC)


Several studies dedicated to the psychiatric consequences of the most well-known incidences of radioactive contamination and exposure have noted elevated suicide risk among the victims of these events. The Chernobyl accident, which happened in Ukraine in 1986, spurred deep concerns on this front, especially regarding children and adolescents. These concerns extend to include those who were in utero at the moment of exposure. While the link between exposure and some neuropsychiatric disturbances has been confirmed among these children, the effect on suicide risk among them remains unclear. Unfortunately, at the pertinent time, youth cohorts were not under longitudinal study to assess the link between suicide and Chernobyl exposure. Therefore, suicidality in adolescents affected by Chernobyl and the role of radiation as a factor in suicidal behavior remains controversial and needs more thorough investigation. However, there is a high probability that these contingents have suffered from the psychosocial stress that followed the disaster, including fear and anxiety over health issues, forced and hectic evacuation, and various complications associated with adaptation to new living conditions. Another related issue was the vivid discussion of radiation exposure in scientific and nonscientific media, concerns shared among parents, and incomplete or misleading information disseminated to the wider public, which may have victimized an entire generation. Those who were born during or shortly after Chernobyl are about 30 years old today, and psychiatric disturbances and suicidality among them may bear signs of Chernobyl. However, a lack of objective exploration on the subject has hampered a more definitive conclusion about suicidality in this contingent. This chapter is a discussion of related research to date and projections for what more might be done.


Chernobyl disaster Radioactive contamination Psychosocial stress Psychosocial consequences Adolescents Suicide 


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PsychologySaint-Petersburg State UniversitySaint-PetersburgRussia

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