Psychological sequelae of the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York City

N Engl J Med. 2002 Mar 28;346(13):982-7. doi: 10.1056/NEJMsa013404.


Background: The scope of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, was unprecedented in the United States. We assessed the prevalence and correlates of acute post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and depression among residents of Manhattan five to eight weeks after the attacks.

Methods: We used random-digit dialing to contact a representative sample of adults living south of 110th Street in Manhattan. Participants were asked about demographic characteristics, exposure to the events of September 11, and psychological symptoms after the attacks.

Results: Among 1008 adults interviewed, 7.5 percent reported symptoms consistent with a diagnosis of current PTSD related to the attacks, and 9.7 percent reported symptoms consistent with current depression (with "current" defined as occurring within the previous 30 days). Among respondents who lived south of Canal Street (i.e., near the World Trade Center), the prevalence of PTSD was 20.0 percent. Predictors of PTSD in a multivariate model were Hispanic ethnicity, two or more prior stressors, a panic attack during or shortly after the events, residence south of Canal Street, and loss of possessions due to the events. Predictors of depression were Hispanic ethnicity, two or more prior stressors, a panic attack, a low level of social support, the death of a friend or relative during the attacks, and loss of a job due to the attacks.

Conclusions: There was a substantial burden of acute PTSD and depression in Manhattan after the September 11 attacks. Experiences involving exposure to the attacks were predictors of current PTSD, and losses as a result of the events were predictors of current depression. In the aftermath of terrorist attacks, there may be substantial psychological morbidity in the population.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aircraft
  • Data Collection
  • Depression / epidemiology*
  • Depression / ethnology
  • Depression / etiology
  • Female
  • Hispanic or Latino / psychology
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • New York City / epidemiology
  • Panic Disorder / complications
  • Prevalence
  • Random Allocation
  • Residence Characteristics
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Social Support
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / ethnology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology
  • Terrorism / psychology*