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Where are 9/11 survivors now part 2: PTSD among 9/11 rescuers

Large epidemiological studies conducted by the Health Department’s WTC Health Registry revealed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms to be the most common health effect among survivors of 9/11.

PTSD has affected as many as 20 percent of the people who were directly exposed to the WTC disaster, this is roughly four times the rate of PTSD symptoms typically found in the general population. Rescue and recovery workers who were present on or soon after 9/11 or who worked at the WTC site for a long time were more susceptible to developing PTSD.

Acute injury from 9/11 has also been associated with an increased risk for chronic health problems. The study identified 14,087 people who were present during the attacks or spent time on the site shortly after did not have any previously existing chronic conditions. Out of this population, 1,980 people reportedly sustained one or more acute injuries, such as a serious burn or broken bones.

The researchers found people who had more than one acute injury, alongside PTSD, were three times more at risk for developing heart disease later in life than otherwise. Additionally, people who had no physical injuries, but later developed PTSD had twice the risk for developing respiratory illness.

A report published April 16 this year online in the journal Occupational & Environmental Medicine, took a closer look at the consequences for Emergency Medical Services (EMS).

Assessed over a period of 12 years following the attacks, EMS 9/11 responders were seen to be seven times more likely to have PTSD than EMS workers who didn’t work that day. Responders were also twice as likely to have depression, according to the study.

Between September 2001 and December 2013, researchers collected data on the health of almost 2,300 New York City Fire Department EMS workers who were sent to the site of the World Trade Center attack.

“Our study showed some of the health conditions among EMS workers who were deployed to the World Trade Center recovery site,” said researcher Mayris Webber, who’s with the NYC Fire Department’s Bureau of Health Services.

EMS workers and other individuals who were exposed to the World Trade Center disaster remain at high risk of developing additional health problems, Webber said. “Over time, other health outcomes may emerge. Additional research is needed to better understand the link between the World Trade Center disaster and short- and long-term health consequences,” she added.

Webber’s team looked at both the mental and physical health conditions linked to the attack.

Over 12 years, the incidence of acid reflux disease (GERD) was observed just over 12 percent. The incidence of obstructive airway disease was just under 12 percent whereas sinus infections and cancer rates were about 11 percent and 3 percent, respectively.

Mental health screenings found that 17 percent of the responders were likely to be suffering from depression; 7 percent had PTSD and 3 percent had symptoms of alcohol use disorders, the researchers found.

“Post-traumatic stress disorder can be devastating, affecting people’s families and work lives,” said Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, New York City Health Commissioner. “People with PTSD are also more likely to suffer from depression and substance abuse. The Registry helps us gauge the persistence of these problems 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.”


The 24/7 Recovery Helpline is committed to connect you the best treatment plan and cutting-edge aftercare plans that best suit your needs. If you or a loved one is seeking recovery for PTSD, call us right away at 855-441-4405.

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