New Historian

9/11 Triggered Sharp Spike in Mental Disorders Outside the USA

Statue of Liberty and WTC fire (2)

<![CDATA[The 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States are probably the most important historical event in recent memory. The series of coordinated strikes on September 11th, 2001, saw the destruction of the iconic twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York City, significant damage done to the Pentagon in Washington D.C., 2,996 people killed and over 6,000 injured. Beyond the tragic loss of life, the billions of dollars in property damage and the global geopolitical fall out of the event, 9/11 also had profound consequences on the mental well being of Americans. Now, a new study argues that the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States could have caused mental disorders far beyond US borders as well. A recent population-wide study of the people of Denmark has identified "a significant and immediate" spike in the diagnoses of trauma and stressor related disorders in the weeks and months following 9/11. This is despite the country not being directly affected by the events. The study was performed by political scientists and medical researchers from Aarhus University, University of Copenhagen and Stanford University, with funding from the Carlsberg foundation. It will be published in the upcoming issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology. Using population data from the Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register, covering the period from 1995 to 2012, the team looked for changes in the incidences of mental disorders around the time of the 9/11 attacks. By analysing 1,448,250 contacts with psychiatric services, the team found the week following September 11, 2001, coincided with a 16% rise in the incidence rate of stressor and trauma related disorders, such as post traumatic stress or adjustment disorders. For six months after the attacks, the incidence of stressor and trauma related disorders remained elevated by around 5% above the normal level. The surge did not dissipate until roughly a year after 9/11. No similar increases were found for other mental disorders in the same period. “[the outcome of the study] sadly confirms that one of the alleged purposes of [certain types of] terrorism – to generate mass-scale attention and intimidation – is in fact achieved”. the authors write, in their conclusion. Anyone old enough to remember 9/11 will know that one of the most startling things about the events that day was the extensive mass media coverage they received, a tragedy transmitted across the globe almost in real time. Unsurprisingly, the study authors think this was key to the effect they observed. “The extra-national character of the post-9/11 deterioration of mental health observed in this study also highlights the pronounced importance of mass media in transmitting stress-inducing information to populations in countries far removed from the target of the [terrorist] attack.” The study, by Bertel T. Hansen; Søren D. Østergaard; Kim M. Sønderskov and Peter T. Dinesen, highlights the impact of 9/11 as it was experienced vicariously in Denmark – across the Atlantic and thousands of miles away from the actual site of the attacks. Beyond this historical insight however, it also offers an ominous warning for the future. “Although this remains to be examined, it seems likely that such an effect [as observed in the study] would become even stronger in the future, given the highly visual and real-time nature of today’s mass media.” For more information:]]>

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