Back in March, radiation-protection specialist Shunichi Yamashita, MD, PhD, sparked outrage when he told people in Fukushima, Japan: "The effects of radiation do not come to people who are happy and laughing, they come to people who are weak-spirited."
But earlier this week he explained the reasoning behind his statement in a Spiegel interview, and it's not as completely crazy as it sounds:
"From animal experiments with rats we clearly know that animals who are very susceptible to stress will be more affected by radiation. Stress is not good at all for people who are subjected to radiation. Besides, mental-state stress also suppresses the immune system and therefore may promote some cancer and non-cancer diseases. That is why I told people that they also have to relax."
His point about stress suppressing the immune system is reasonable. But, really, I think cheering up while radiation emissions continue from the damaged nuclear reactors is probably easier said than done.
In the interview, Yamashita goes on to discuss his plan to examine the health effects of the emissions on the region's people. And he talks about his extensive studies of survivors of the Chernobyl reaction accident. It's an interesting read.