Terrorism-Related Fear and Avoidance Behavior in a Multiethnic Urban Population

Published In: American Journal of Public Health, v. 99, no. 1, Jan. 1, 2009, p. 168-174

Posted on RAND.org on January 01, 2009

by David Eisenman, Deborah C. Glik, Michael Ong, Qiong Zhou, Chi-Hong Tseng, Anna Long, Jonathan E. Fielding, Steven M. Asch

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OBJECTIVES. The authors sought to determine whether groups traditionally most vulnerable to disasters would be more likely than would be others to perceive population-level risk as high (as measured by the estimated color-coded alert level) would worry more about terrorism, and would avoid activities because of terrorism concerns. METHODS. The authors conducted a random digit dial survey of the Los Angeles County population October 2004 through January 2005 in 6 languages. They asked respondents what color alert level the country was under, how often they worry about terrorist attacks, and how often they avoid activities because of terrorism. Multivariate regression modeled correlates of worry and avoidance, including mental illness, disability, demographic factors, and estimated color-coded alert level. RESULTS. Persons who are mentally ill, those who are disabled, African Americans, Latinos, Chinese Americans, Korean Americans, and non-US citizens were more likely to perceive population-level risk as high, as measured by the estimated color-coded alert level. These groups also reported more worry and avoidance behaviors because of concerns about terrorism. CONCLUSIONS. Vulnerable populations experience a disproportionate burden of the psychosocial impact of terrorism threats and our national response. Further studies should investigate the specific behaviors affected and further elucidate disparities in the disaster burden associated with terrorism and terrorism policies.

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