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Americans Suffer from Depression in Wake of Terror Attacks - 2001-11-17

The events of September 11 had a devastating effect on many Americans. That's according to a new survey that found that most people exhibited signs of depression in the immediate aftermath of the terrorist attacks.

The survey by the Rand Corporation, a research organization in Santa Monica, California, was conducted three to five days after terrorists commandeered four jetliners, ramming two of them into the World Trade Center twin towers and another in the Pentagon. A fourth hijacked plane crashed in western Pennsylvania before reaching its intended target.

Researchers randomly telephoned 560 adults around the United States. Of these, 44 percent of the people surveyed reported experiencing at least one of five stress symptoms substantially. And 90 percent said they were experiencing at least one of the symptoms to some degree. The survey also found that people with prior mental health difficulties had a harder time coping with the terrorist assaults.

Symptoms people reported having included recurring thoughts or dreams about the attack, difficulty concentrating, difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep, feeling irritable and getting upset when something reminded them of September 11.

Mark Schuster headed the study, which appears in the New England Journal of Medicine. "I think it helps people to know that they are not alone when they are having these reactions. So, we wind up showing that many people are having these reactions so they don't feel there's something wrong with them. We wind up showing that this is something that's happening around the country," he said

Dr. Schuster says researchers also wanted to alert doctors, employers and teachers that stress reactions to the terrorism were fairly widespread and common.

Two months after the attacks, Dr. Schuster expects most people have regained their emotional footing and are getting on with their lives.