World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 (R).
(photo credit: REUTERS/Sara K. Schwittek)
It's a given that the events of September 11 affected the lives of Americans in terms of national security and politics, but a new study has revealed that the attacks also influenced many citizens' health status.
Researchers at the University of Irvine found that doctor-diagnosed illness climbed by 18 percent in the first three years after the terrorist attacks.
Watching events unfold on live television appears to have contributed to the development of stress-related illness, researchers said, which is linked to the effect of "collective traumas" such as natural disasters and presidential assassinations.
“We cannot underestimate the impact of collective stress on health,”
said E. Alison Holman, UCI assistant professor of nursing science and a
health psychologist. “People who work in health professions need to
recognize symptoms related to stress and need to consider the potential
effect of indirect exposure to extreme stress.”
As part of the study, over 2,000 adults disclosed whether a physician
had diagnosed them with any of 35 illnesses, such as heart disease or
diabetes, and the number of times they had seen a doctor in the past
year for each disorder. Sixty-three percent had viewed the 9/11 attacks
live on television, and 4.5 percent had been directly exposed to them.
“Those who watched the attacks live on TV – as opposed to those who
learned about them only after they happened – experienced a 28 percent
rise in physical ailments over the following three years,” Holman said.
“Large-scale collective traumas such as 9/11 often set in motion a
series of events, such as personal loss, economic hardship and fears
about the future,” Holman continued. “Under these circumstances, stress
can take its toll in the form of illness, even among people who were
nowhere near the World Trade Center towers on Sept. 11.”