A National Survey of Stress Reactions After the September 11, 2001, Terrorist Attacks

Published in: The New England Journal of Medicine, v. 345, no. 20, Nov. 15, 2001, p. 1507-1512

Posted on RAND.org on December 31, 2000

by Mark A. Schuster, Bradley D. Stein, Lisa H. Jaycox, Rebecca L. Collins, Grant N. Marshall, Marc N. Elliott, Annie Jie Zhou, David E. Kanouse, Janina L. Morrison, Sandra H. Berry

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BACKGROUND: People who are not present at a traumatic event may experience stress reactions. The authors assessed the immediate mental health effects of the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. METHODS: Using random-digit dialing three to five days after September 11, the authors interviewed a nationally representative sample of 560 U.S. adults about their reactions to the terrorist attacks and their perceptions of their children's reactions. RESULTS: Forty-four percent of the adults reported one or more substantial symptoms of stress; 90 percent had one or more symptoms to at least some degree. Respondents throughout the country reported stress symptoms. They coped by talking with others (98 percent), turning to religion (90 percent), participating in group activities (60 percent), and making donations (36 percent). Eighty-four percent of parents reported that they or other adults in the household had talked to their children about the attacks for an hour or more; 34 percent restricted their children's television viewing. Thirty-five percent of children had one or more stress symptoms, and 47 percent were worried about their own safety or the safety of loved ones. CONCLUSIONS: After the September 11 terrorist attacks, Americans across the country, including children, had substantial symptoms of stress. Even clinicians who practice in regions that are far from the recent attacks should be prepared to assist people with trauma-related symptoms of stress.

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