Research Impacts - Studies

Psychological Trauma Among New Yorkers from Sept 11 Attacks

Release Date: 3/28/2002
Five to eight weeks after the World Trade Center terrorist attacks rates of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression were two to three times as high among residents of Manhattan living south of 110th Street as those normally found in the general population.
  • Prevalence of PTSD related to the World Trade Center attack was 7.5%.
  • Prevalence of depression was 9.7%.
  • In total, 13.6% met the criteria for either PTSD or depression.
  • 3.7% reported symptoms that met the criteria for both PTSD and depression.
Large numbers of Manhattan residents had direct exposure to the events: 11% report that a relative or close friend was killed in the attack, 16% report symptoms of a panic attack, 16% report they feared injury or death, 11% were involved in the rescue efforts in some way, and 6% lost jobs as a result of the attack. And over a third of the respondents (38%) report they witnessed the events in person while they were happening.
Direct involvement is one of the best predictors of both PTSD and depression as would be expected. Among the 5% who lived south of Canal Street at the time of the attacks, prevalence of PTSD is 20.0% and depression is 16.8%. Among those who experienced symptoms of a panic attack at the time of the event, PTSD is 31.5% and depression is 24.6%. Multivariate models show the best predictors are:
  • For PTSD: Hispanic ethnicity, two or more prior stressor events in the past year, panic attack, residence south of Canal Street, and losing possessions in the attack.
  • For depression: Hispanic ethnicity, two or more prior stressor events in the past year, panic attack, low level of social support, and job loss due to attack.
The survey results were made available to the NYC Department of Health beginning with interim results while the study was still being conducted in November, 2001, and were used as part of New York City's emergency response planning.
Results are now being published in a series of journal articles. For detailed analyses of the results, see:
"Psychological Sequelae of the September 11 Terrorist Attacks in New York City," New England Journal of Medicine, vol.346, no. 13 (March 28, 2002), pp. 982-987.
SRBI interviewed 1008 residents of Manhattan living below 110th Street between October 16th and November 15th, 2001. The interviews were conducted by telephone with an RDD sample of adults, with interviewing conducted in both English and Spanish.
This was the first survey in a continuing research program in which SRBI is working with the New York Academy of Medicine to assess the psychological consequences of the World Trade Center terrorist attacks in the entire New York Metro area. An additional survey covering the entire city of New York was conducted in January/February 2002 (4-5 months after the attack), and a multi-wave panel study is now under way to track longer term outcomes. Other studies are planned in this program and closely-related programs.
Key researchers from The National Crime Victims Research and Treatment Center at the Medical University of South Carolina are also participating in this on-going program.