One In Eight WTC Rescue and Recovery Workers Developed Posttramatic Stress Disorder
August 29, 2007
Thousands of World Trade Center rescue and recovery workers were still suffering serious mental-health effects two to three years after the disaster, according to new research published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. Findings released from the World Trade Center Health Registry show that one in eight rescue and recovery workers (12.4%) had posttraumatic stress disorder when they were interviewed in 2003 and 2004. Rates were highest among volunteer workers and lowest among police officers.
The new data come from the World Trade Center Health Registry's initial survey of nearly 30,000 rescue and recovery workers. The respondents ranged from police officers and firefighters to clergy and construction workers. The prevalence of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) varied significantly by occupation, with rates ranging from a low of 6.2% among police officers to 21.2% among civilian volunteers. The prevalence of PTSD in the U.S. population is roughly 4% at any given time.
Like the civilian volunteers, workers from non-emergency occupations such as construction, engineering and sanitation also suffered particularly high rates of PTSD. Besides lacking disaster training, which can help buffer psychological trauma, these workers most likely had not been desensitized by experience with previous emergencies. People who started work on or soon after 9/11, or who worked for longer periods, were also more vulnerable to PTSD.
"These findings confirm that 9/11 had lasting psychological consequences for many of those who responded to it," said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner. "Posttraumatic stress disorder can be devastating without treatment, affecting people's families and work lives and leading to substance-abuse problems. The registry helps us gauge the persistence of these issues over time. It also helps us inform the public and the medical community about the health effects of 9/11, so that people can get the best possible care."
Read the NYC DOHMH press release