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For 9/11 Firefighters, More PTSD Appears As Delayed Onset

13 Feb

Researcher-epidemiologists from Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx,  NY, screened for PTSD in 9/11 exposed firefighters at two different time points - within six months of the attacks and after 3-4 years post follow-up.

Five thousand six hundred fifty-six individuals completed assessments at both times. 15.5% reported probable PTSD post-9/11, 8.6% at baseline and 11.1% at follow-up, on average 2.9 (SD 0.5) years later.

Analyses revealed that nearly half of all probable PTSD occurred as delayed onset (absent baseline, present follow-up). Compared with the resilient group (no probable PTSD at either time), probable PTSD at baseline, and delayed onset at follow-up were each associated with functional impairments (OR 19.5 and 18.9), respectively.

Similar percentages of firefighters met criteria for baseline and delayed onset probable PTSD at follow-up, years later. Both were associated with substantial functional impairment.

Early risk identification could provide opportunities for mental health interventions before symptoms compromise work and social relationships.

Citation:  Berninger A, Webber MP, Niles JK, Gustave J, Lee R, Cohen HW, Kelly K, Corrigan M, Prezant DJ. Longitudinal study of probable post-traumatic stress disorder in firefighters exposed to the World Trade Center disaster. American Journal of  Industrial Medicine. 2010 Sep 22. [Epub ahead of print]

Belleruth Naparstek

Psychotherapist, author and guided imagery pioneer Belleruth Naparstek is the creator of the popular Health Journeys guided imagery audio series. Her latest book on imagery and posttraumatic stress, Invisible Heroes: Survivors of Trauma and How They Heal (Bantam Dell), won the Spirituality & Health Top 50 Books Award