Many 9/11 survivors show lasting traumatic stress

Tue Jan 4, 2011 8:55pm EST
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NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Many civilian survivors of the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center were still suffering from symptoms of post-traumatic stress several years after the 2001 disaster, according to a study.

The study, the first to focus on the long-term mental health of people who were actually in the Twin Towers on the morning of September 11, also found that the biggest predictor of long-term post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had nothing to do with the disaster itself.

Instead, it was income.

The research team, led by Sandro Galea of Columbia University in New York, surveyed nearly 3,700 people who escaped the Trade Center and found that 96 percent still had at least one symptom of PTSD two to three years later.

Of those, 15 percent screened positive for full-blown PTSD, a rate about four times higher than that seen in the general population in any given year.

"We are learning that (September11) had pernicious and long-lasting mental health effects," Galea said of the study, reported in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Past studies have looked at the general public, or people who lived near the World Trade Center, rather than those who were actually in it.

That's because researchers at first had no good way of finding and studying survivors who had escaped the buildings that day. But government officials have since developed a health registry that includes a large sample of people who were in the Trade Center.

Galea said his team's findings help pinpoint survivors who appear to be at particular risk of long-term PTSD. Not surprisingly, the risk rose along with the severity of the trauma people went through on September 11.   Continued...