In the aftermath of the events of September 11th, researchers funded in part by the National Institute on Drug Abuse assessed post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression among Manhattan residents five to eight weeks after the attacks.
The team, led by Drs. David Vlahov and Sandro Galea of the New York Academy of Medicine, found that 7.5 percent of the study’s 1,008 participants reported symptoms of PTSD and 9.7 percent reported symptoms of depression. More than three percent of participants reported symptoms of both PTSD and depression. The New York findings are two to three times higher than the PTSD and depression rates reported by participants in a national mental health study conducted in the early 1990s.
The findings appear in the March 28th issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.
“We know from previous research that PTSD and depression may develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, such as the September 11th attacks,” said NIDA Acting Director Dr. Glen Hanson. “And we also know that PTSD and depression are strong risk factors for substance abuse and addiction. Therefore, it’s important for us to use this research to develop effective treatment strategies that will help individuals cope with traumatic events.”
In this study, the researchers randomly selected 1,008 adults who lived in Manhattan at the time of the study. Participants were interviewed by telephone and asked questions about their exposure to September 11th events (for example, whether they witnessed the attacks and suffered personal losses) and whether they experienced psychological problems after the attacks. The participants also were asked about their level of emotional support during the six months prior to the attacks and the number of stressful events they experienced during the year before the attacks.
“The high prevalence of PTSD and depression among residents of Manhattan is not surprising,” said Dr. Vlahov. “Previous research suggests that the symptoms of PTSD usually decrease substantially within a few months after a trauma, however, the ongoing threat of terrorist attacks and the constant reminders of the events may affect both the severity and duration of PTSD and depression among residents of New York. More research is needed to determine the long-term impact of the attacks on New York residents.”
This study was funded by the NIDA, the United Way of New York City, and The New York Community Trust. NIDA has funded several studies measuring the impact of stress and depression on substance abuse. For more information, check NIDA’s web site: www.drugabuse.gov.
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