Monday, June 16, 2008

Study shows long-term 9/11 stress in lower Manhattan

Study shows long-term 9/11 stress in lower Manhattan

By Claudia Parsons

NEW YORK (Reuters) - One in eight people who lived near the World Trade Center at the time of the September 11 attacks in 2001 were still suffering post traumatic stress disorder two to three years later, a new study indicated on Friday.

The study, based on a 2003-2004 survey of 11,000 lower Manhattan residents, showed low-income and less educated people were more prone to PTSD, as were divorced people, with around one in five in those groups reporting symptoms.

Authors of the study called for further monitoring of PTSD victims from the neighborhood and the city urged them to take advantage of free mental health services.

The condition is an anxiety disorder sparked by traumatic experiences of intense fear, horror or hopelessness. Symptoms include irritability or anger, sleep difficulties, trouble concentrating, extreme vigilance, flashbacks and nightmares.

The New York City health department, which conducted the study, said it was the first to measure the attack's long-term effect on the mental health of the community.

It said it was now analyzing the results of a follow-up survey conducted six years after the 9/11 attacks and would release new health findings in the coming months.

The study published on Friday in the Journal of Traumatic Stress showed 12.6 percent of all respondents suffered PTSD in 2003-2004. Women were more likely to have PTSD, at 15 percent, compared to 10 percent of men.

One in five African Americans and nearly one in four Hispanics suffered PTSD, it showed, compared to 10.7 percent of white residents. People earning less than $25,000a year showed a rate of nearly 20 percent Residents who were injured in the attacks were most likely to be still suffering PTSD two or three years later, at 38 percent. Others most affected included those who witnessed violent deaths and those caught in the dust cloud after the towers collapsed -- around 17 percent in each case.

The study cited figures from previous studies of the general population of the city showing that 8 percent of Manhattan residents reported symptoms of PTSD at five to eight weeks after the attacks, a rate that fell to 2 percent at four months and less than 1 percent at six months.

The new study showed that residents of lower Manhattan were more likely to be dealing with psychological problems from the attacks even two or three years later than the wider population of New York at six months after the attacks.

It said one potential explanation was those living in the area had constant reminders of the attack and more disruption to their daily routine. Many may have also been evacuated from their homes immediately after the attacks.

"We therefore believe these residents require more in-depth mental health monitoring, independent of the larger metropolitan area," the authors of the study wrote.

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