Health Team

9/11 terrorist attacks left some long-term mental, physical effects

Posted August 4, 2009 5:40 p.m. EDT
Updated August 4, 2009 6:24 p.m. EDT

New research has delved into the long-term mental and physical health effects the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks had on many people.

The World Trade Center Health Registry was created to track the health of the 400,000 people exposed to the attack and its aftermath.

More than 71,000 eligible people were enrolled into one of four groups: rescue/recovery workers, office workers and residents or passersby.

“The majority of registrants report serious exposures; being caught in the intense part of the dust cloud or reporting witnessing horrific events, people falling, the airplane crashing into the towers, being injured,” said Lorna Thorpe, of the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene.

Researchers analyzed the most recent survey results regarding asthma and post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms among enrollees five to six years after the attacks.

The study, which appears this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that more than 10 percent of people reported a new asthma diagnosis.

The rate of PTSD symptoms rose to 19 percent – a 5 percent increase from two to three years after the attacks.

“Those individuals who had post 9/11 stresses such as job loss, lack of social support or who have lost someone due to the attacks, really fared worse over time,” Thorpe said.

Experts estimated that as many as 25,500 people could have developed post-event-asthma and 61,000 individuals could have developed symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after the attacks.

Researchers said these findings reinforce the need for ongoing health care following disasters.