Adults Using Active Coping Strategies After Sept. 11 Suffered Less Stress, Study Says
Adults who live outside New York City suffered less stress in the wake of Sept. 11 if they used "active coping" strategies immediately after the attacks, according to a new study in the current issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, USA Today reports (Elias, USA Today, 9/11). Researchers from the Department of Psychology at the University of California-Irvine and the University of Denver analyzed the results of Web-based surveys distributed within three weeks, two months and six months of Sept. 11 to more than 900 adults who reside outside of New York City (Cohen Silver et al., JAMA, 9/11). The survey found that 17% of respondents continued to suffer symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder two months after the attacks. Symptoms included "feeling jittery," dreaming about the events, thinking about them unexpectedly or attempting to avoid reminders. Nearly 6% reported the symptoms continued for as long as six months afterward. The study found that the best indicator of whether an adult would suffer such symptoms was the coping method used immediately after the attacks. People who were active in their coping, participating in activities such as attending memorial services or giving blood, were less likely to suffer symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder. Adults who ended attempts to cope, went into denial or attempted to ignore the situation were more likely to suffer poor psychological outcomes, according to the Boston Herald (Lasalandra, Boston Herald, 9/11). "The point is: Don't give up trying to cope; do something," lead researcher Roxane Cohen Silver said, but she added that "no one protective strategy ... works for everyone" (USA Today, 9/11). The complete study is available online.
In related news, the New York Times today examines the response of mental health providers in New York City to the Sept. 11 attacks. After the attacks, city officials organized the largest offering of free mental health treatment in history. However, it quickly became apparent that many psychotherapists' knowledge of trauma treatment procedures was "limit[ed]." Researchers say they are using the attacks to examine their understanding of trauma, but the Times reports that some experts say a "valuable research opportunity was squandered" because the mental health response effort lacked a mechanism to track meaningful data immediately following the attacks. Dr. Brian Flynn, HHS' lead mental health adviser during that time, said, "We really were not prepared, our systems were not prepared, for something of this magnitude." He added, "If another attack happened tomorrow, we would probably not be much better prepared" (Goode/Eakin, New York Times, 9/11).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.