Wave III of the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health provides opportunities to describe the reactions of young adults to September 11, 2001, and to increase understanding of the reactions among those who do not directly witness disasters.
To compare the feelings, perceptions, and behaviors of respondents interviewed before with those of respondents interviewed within 9 weeks after September 11; and to test the influence of time and distance from terrorist sites on pre-post comparisons.
Cross-sectional study, with comparison groups before and after September 11.
Seven thousand ninety-five respondents aged 18 to 26 years.
Main Outcome Measures
Sadness, psychological distress, closeness to parents, importance of religion and spirituality, trust in government, and substance use.
Male (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 1.33; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.08-1.65) and female (aOR, 1.44; 95% CI, 1.22-1.71) respondents interviewed after September 11 were more likely to report sadness and increased trust in government (aOR range, 2.11-3.30) than those interviewed before September 11. Proportions reporting sadness returned to baseline in 4 to 6 weeks; increased political trust persisted for the 9-week study period. Male respondents interviewed the second week afterwards were more likely to report religious faith (aOR, 2.06; 95% CI, 1.40-3.00) and spiritual life (aOR, 1.75; 95% CI, 1.18-2.60) as important than were those interviewed before the event. Female respondents interviewed afterwards were more likely to report higher levels of psychological distress (aOR, 1.40; 95% CI, 1.08-1.83) and closeness to fathers (aOR, 1.36; 95% CI, 1.08-1.72). There were no pre-post differences in substance use. Respondents closest to terrorist sites were most affected.
Young adults who did not directly witness the events of September 11 experienced reactions that were multifaceted and transient—except for persisting trust in government.