The 11 September 2001 (9/11) attacks were unprecedented in magnitude and mental health impact. While a large body of research has emerged since the attacks, published reviews are few, and are limited by an emphasis on cross-sectional research, short time frame, and exclusion of treatment studies. Additionally, to date, there has been no systematic review of available longitudinal information as a unique data set. Consequently, knowledge regarding long-term trajectories of 9/11-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) among highly exposed populations, and whether available treatment approaches effectively address PTSD within the context of mass, man-made disaster, remains limited.
The present review aimed to address these gaps using a systematic review of peer-reviewed reports from October 2001 to May 2016. Eligible reports were of longitudinal studies of PTSD among highly exposed populations. We identified 20 reports of 9/11-related PTSD, including 13 longitudinal prevalence studies and seven treatment studies.
Findings suggest a substantial burden of 9/11-related PTSD among those highly exposed to the attack, associated with a range of sociodemographic and back-ground factors, and characteristics of peri-event exposure. While most longitudinal studies show declining rates of prevalence of PTSD, studies of rescue/recovery workers have documented an increase over time. Treatment studies were few, and generally limited by methodological shortcomings, but support exposure-based therapies.
Future directions for research, treatment, and healthcare policy are discussed.