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More than 3,000 survivors of the WTC attacks experience long-term post-traumatic stress disorder
Date:1/7/2011

January 6, 2010 -- Nearly 10 years after the greatest human-made disaster in U.S. history-- the destruction of the World Trade Center (WTC) towers -- there has been little research documenting the attacks' consequences among those most directly affected -- the survivors who escaped the World Trade Center towers. In a study just released by Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health, in conjunction with the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the federal Agency for Toxic Substances Disease Registry (ATSDR), researchers found that of the 3,271 civilians who evacuated the Twin Towers, 95.6% of survivors reported at least one current posttraumatic stress symptom and 15% screened positive for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), two to three years after the disaster. While past studies have examined PTSD prevalence among rescue and recovery workers, Lower Manhattan residents, other downtown building occupants, and passersby, this is the first study to focus specifically on people who were inside the towers when they were struck. The full study findings are currently online in the American Journal of Epidemiology.

PTSD is a psychiatric disorder that occurs after experiencing or witnessing events that threaten death or serious injury and that involves intense feelings of fear, helplessness, or horror and is the third most common anxiety disorder in the United States. The researchers report that five characteristics of direct exposure to the terrorist attacks were predictors of PTSD: a key driver was initiating evacuation late. Other predictors were being on a high floor in the towers, being caught in the dust cloud that resulted from the tower collapses, personally witnessing horror, and sustaining an injury. Working for an employer that sustained fatalities also increased risk. Each addition of an experience of a direct exposure resulted in a two-fold increase in the risk of PTSD.

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Contact: Stephanie Berger
sb2247@columbia.edu
212-305-4372
Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health
Source:Eurekalert

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