The psychological impact of terrorism: an epidemiologic study of posttraumatic stress disorder and associated factors in victims of the 1995-1996 bombings in France

Am J Psychiatry. 2004 Aug;161(8):1384-9. doi: 10.1176/appi.ajp.161.8.1384.


Objective: A wave of bombings struck France in 1995 and 1996, killing 12 people and injuring more than 200. The authors conducted follow-up evaluations with the victims in 1998 to determine the prevalence of and factors associated with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Method: Victims directly exposed to the bombings (N=228) were recruited into a retrospective, cross-sectional study. Computer-assisted telephone interviews were conducted to evaluate PTSD, per DSM-IV criteria, and to assess health status before the attack, initial injury severity and perceived threat at the time of attack, and psychological symptoms, cosmetic impairment, hearing problems, and health service use at the time of the follow-up evaluation. Factors associated with PTSD were investigated with univariate logistic regression followed by multiple logistic regression analyses.

Results: A total of 196 respondents (86%) participated in the study. Of these, 19% had severe initial physical injuries (hospitalization exceeding 1 week). Problems reported at the follow-up evaluation included attack-related hearing problems (51%), cosmetic impairment (33%), and PTSD (31%) (95% confidence interval=24.5%-37.5%). Results of logistic regression analyses indicated that the risk of PTSD was significantly higher among women (odds ratio=2.54), participants age 35-54 (odds ratio=2.83), and those who had severe initial injuries (odds ratio=2.79) or cosmetic impairment (odds ratio=2.74) or who perceived substantial threat during the attack (odds ratio=3.99).

Conclusions: The high prevalence of PTSD 2.6 years on average after a terrorist attack emphasizes the need for improved health services to address the intermediate and long-term consequences of terrorism.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Crime Victims / psychology*
  • Crime Victims / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Explosions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • France / epidemiology
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Prevalence
  • Psychiatric Status Rating Scales
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Sex Factors
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / diagnosis
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / epidemiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology
  • Terrorism / psychology*
  • Terrorism / statistics & numerical data
  • Wounds and Injuries / epidemiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology