It’s been 20 years since the attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and the plane crash in Pennsylvania. Over that time, there have been numerous studies done on the effects of 9/11 on both physical and mental health; programs begun to address those effects and help people heal; and the discovery of life-long negative health consequences on those most closely exposed to the trauma and air pollutants in New York City.
Below are a few of the articles from the last year or two that can be found on this subject. The attacks on 9/11 began a new era in the United States in many ways, including response to disasters and our understanding of the ways disasters impact our physical and mental health. While these five articles are of particular interest, we invite you to check out the other articles on the Digital Resource Library under the Lessons from 9/11 category here.
We thank you for being part of our team, and responding to our call for help for the 20th Anniversary of 9/11.
1. Alper, H. E., Gargano, L. M., Cone, J. E., & Brackbill, R. M. (2020). Injury severity and psychological distress sustained in the aftermath of the attacks of 11 September 2001 predict somatic symptoms in World Trade Center Health Registry enrollees sixteen years later. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(12), 4232. DOI: 10.3390/ijerph17124232
General somatic symptoms–such as gastrointestinal problems, dizziness, or body aches–are a common result of a variety of conditions, both physical and psychological. Due to them being general and vague, however, they are often overlooked and/or not associated with the diagnosed conditions. As Alper, et. al., (2020) states, somatic symptoms are often studied in post-natural disaster populations, but have not been looked at in those on the ground at the World Trade Centers on 9/11. Using data from the World Trade Center Health Registry, Alper, et. al., (2020) used the Somatic Symptom Scale-8 to assess the likelihood of experiencing somatic symptoms over time by level of physical injury during the attacks and trajectory of psychological distress/mental health issues. They found that, overall, those with severe injuries or PTSD were more likely to report somatic symptoms over the years, particularly in low-income and low-education populations.
2. Daniels, R. D., Clouston, S. A., Hall, C. B., Anderson, K. R., Bennett, D. A., Bromet, E. J., … & Reissman, D. B. (2021). A workshop on cognitive aging and impairment in the 9/11-exposed population. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(2), 681. https://doi.org/10.3390/Ijerph18020681
A review of a workshop/presentation series on the neurological outcomes of those exposed to debris, air pollution, and injury during the September 11th World Trade Center attacks. The work is cut into sections, starting with an introduction to the idea of mild cognitive impairment (MCI), PTSD and other mental health issues, and the World Trade Center Health Program, from which much of the data is drawn. The workshop was set into six sessions; this paper offers a brief overview of each session.Sessions I through III provide an in-depth lesson on MCI, neurodegenerative diseases, and the effects of air pollutants seen in 9/11 on neurological mechanisms. Sessions IV through VI go over the cognitive decline being seen in those exposed to dust and other air pollutants during 9/11, including those who were at Ground Zero and those elsewhere in Manhattan. Session IV, specifically, offers a look at how PTSD and MCI differ but interact, which is very helpful for those working with people physically exposed to 9/11.
3. Gargano, L. M., Locke, S. H., Alper, H. E., & Brite, J. (2021). Hospitalizations among World Trade Center Health Registry Enrollees Who Were under 18 Years of Age on 9/11, 2001–2016. International journal of environmental research and public health, 18(14), 7527. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph18147527
Gargano, et. al. (2021) are concerned here with the long-lasting effects of 9/11 on children–particularly in how many of those children and adolescents end up needing hospitalization for physical and mental health problems in the years following the attacks. They do this by looking at hospitalization records gathered by the World Trade Center Health Registry and conducting secondary data analysis. Much like in Daniels, et. al. (2021), this paper addresses the effects of dust exposure on asthma and cardiovascular symptoms in minors as well as the mental health effects, such as PTSD. Further, their data shows that most at risk of prolonged physical and mental health issues and hospitalizations are those who are Black, Asian, or Hispanic and lived in low-income housing as children.
4. Santiago-Colón, A., Daniels, R., Reissman, D., Anderson, K., Calvert, G., Caplan, A., … & Howard, J. (2020). World Trade Center health program: First decade of research. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(19), 7290. doi:10.3390/ijerph17197290
This is a review of data gathered over the 10 years that the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP) has been in operation. Founded in January of 2011, the WTCHP offers medical assistance for certain health conditions associated with exposure to dust and air pollutants during the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, Pentagon, and in Pennsylvania, for both first responders and survivors of the attacks. The authors outline the different toxins that entered the air as the towers came down and the negative effects those toxins had on people exposed, how the program gained funding and how that funding was utilized, and the various conditions (from mental health problems to cancer) that the program has treated. In all, this is an excellent review of the various ways people were affected by the 9/11 attacks, and how we need to continue to support responders and survivors moving forward.
5. Sirin, S. R., Choi, E., & Tugberk, C. (2021). The impact of 9/11 and the War on Terror on Arab and Muslim children and families. Current Psychiatry Reports, 23(8), 1-7. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11920-021-01264-6
Sirin, Choi, & Tugberk (2021) offer here an outline of islamophobia and anti-Muslim and anti-Arab sentiment over the last 20 years. They start off with an explanation that levels of anti-Arab and anti-Muslim views, discrimination, and racism have not gone down over time; on the contrary, recent research suggests it’s even worse now than it was at the time of the attacks, not just here in the United States but in Canada and various European countries. The authors outline the different ways Arabs and Muslims–particularly children and adolescents–are exposed to discrimination and racism, as well as the ways they remain resilient in the face of these issues. Finally, they wrap up the overview with five areas of research that need more focus and discussion moving forward, such as focusing more on non-USA settings or conducting field-studies that include the interaction of gender, class, etc., with religious and ethnic identity.