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Many Survivors of World Trade Center Attacks Suffered PTSD: Study
Date:1/9/2011

FRIDAY, Jan. 7 (HealthDay News) -- The first study to focus solely on the risk for post-traumatic stress disorder among those who survived the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center finds many afflicted by the disorder years after.

In fact, of the 3,271 evacuees of the Twin Towers surveyed in the study, nearly all (96 percent) said they suffered from at least one current post-traumatic stress symptom, while 15 percent tested positive for PTSD two to three years after the attacks.

The findings, from Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, appear in the current online edition of the American Journal of Epidemiology.

Post-traumatic stress disorder -- triggered by experiencing an event that causes intense fear, helplessness or horror -- can include flashbacks, emotional numbing, overwhelming guilt and shame, being easily startled, and difficulty maintaining close relationships.

Certain factors seemed to raise the odds of post-traumatic symptoms, the study found. Strongest among them was a relatively late start to evacuation. Being on a higher floor of the buildings, personally witnessing a horrific event, sustaining an injury, and being caught in the dust cloud created by the towers' collapse were also predictors of PTSD, the researchers found.

The odds of PTSD also rose if a person worked for a company that lost employees in the disaster, the study found.

"PTSD risk was greater among survivors who experienced serious life threat as defined by location in the towers, time of evacuation initiation, or dust cloud exposures," Dr. Laura DiGrande, Columbia's Mailman School of Public Health doctoral degree recipient for this research and first author of the study, said in a Columbia news release. "As one would expect, individuals who were exposed to sever
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