The World Trade Center attacks of 11 September 2001 (9/11) have been associated with the subsequent development of chronic diseases. Few studies have investigated the burden of somatic symptoms on attack victims, or the association of such symptoms with exposure to the 9/11 attacks. World Trade Center Health Registry (Registry) enrollees who were present south of Chambers Street during or immediately after the 9/11 attacks and who provided consistent answers regarding injury sustained on 9/11 were followed prospectively for up to 16 years post-9/11/01. We employed linear regression to evaluate the associations between injury severity, psychological distress and somatic symptoms in 2322 persons who completed all four Registry surveys and a subsequent Health and Quality of Life survey. Twenty-one percent of subjects had a "very high" burden of somatic symptoms, greater than in populations not exposed to a disaster. Somatic symptoms exhibited a dose-response association separately with injury severity and psychological distress trajectories. Victims of the 9/11 attacks suffer from a substantial burden of somatic symptoms which are associated with physical and psychological consequences of exposure to the attacks. Physical and mental health professionals need to work together when treating those exposed to complex disasters such as 9/11.
Keywords: 9/11; World Trade Center; disaster; injury; mental health; somatic symptoms.