The stress brought on by the terrorist attacks on the twin towers of World Trade Centre on September 11, 2001 may be making Americans sicker, says a new study.
The study, led by Alison Holman, Professor in Nursing Science at the University of California, Irvine, has demonstrated impact of terrorist attacks on cardiac health.
In the study, acute stress responses to the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon have been linked to a 53 percent increased incidence in cardiovascular ailments over three years following 9/11.
The findings persist even after considering health status before 9/11, degree of exposure to the attacks, and risk factors such as cholesterol problems, diabetes, smoking, and body weight.
"Our study is the first to show that even among people who had no personal connection to the victims, those who reported high levels of post-traumatic stress symptoms in the days following the 9/11 attacks were more than twice as likely to report being diagnosed by their doctors with cardiovascular ailments like high blood pressure, heart problems and stroke up to three years later," Holman said.
Roxane Cohen Silver, Professor of Psychology and Social Behavior and Medicine: "We must consider the potential public health impact of indirect exposure to extreme stress since the majority of our respondents were exposed to the attacks only by watching television."
"Our findings highlight the possibility that acute stress reactions may indicate subsequent vulnerability to potentially serious health problems." Silver added.
The study involved a random sample of almost 2,000 adults from across the country that completed confidential surveys in the days and months following the September 11 attacks.
Participants answered questions about acute responses to the attacks, ongoing worries about terrorism and physician-diagnosed health ailments.
The majority of the respondents reported watching the attacks on live television; one-third reported no live or direct exposure to the attacks, and a few reported direct exposures to the attacks. Follow-up surveys were conducted annually for three years.
Researchers analysed survey participant feedback regarding their physical and mental health, worries about terrorism and lifetime exposure to traumatic events, such as divorce or abuse.
The study concludes that psychological stress following the attacks led to an increase incidence of cardiovascular ailments among adults who had no known pre-existing cardiac condition.
The study is published in Archives of General Psychiatry.