Tuesday, August 4, 2009

As Time Goes On, Memories May Fade, But Post 9/11 Stress Levels Increase

People directly exposed to the 2001 World Trade Center disaster were four times more likely than other people to report post-traumatic stress symptoms in 2006-2007, a new study shows.

While many studies have documented the adverse physical and mental health conditions associated with 9/11, most have focused on the short-term health effects within the first three years following the disaster. In a new study, "Asthma and Post-traumatic Stress Symptoms 5 to 6 Years Following Exposure to the World Trade Center Terrorist Attack," the City New York Health Department and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention examined the nation's largest cohort of directly exposed people. Approximately 50,000 study participants reported their symptoms in a survey completed online, by mail or over the telephone. Their medical records were not reviewed.

The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, also found elevated asthma rates among exposed people. But new asthma diagnoses were more likely to be reported in the first 16 months after 9/11 than later, in 2004-2006. The full report suggests that post-traumatic stress symptoms and asthma, which often occur together, are the major health ramifications of the World Trade Center attack.

The 50,000 study participants included survivors of the Twin Towers' collapse, rescue-and-recovery workers and volunteers who responded early or worked at the WTC site for a long time. They also included passers-by, people who returned to work in downtown Manhattan and people who lived nearby.

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