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A series of sniper attacks in the Washington, DC, area left 10 people dead and 3 wounded. We developed and tested a model that examined the unique and interdependent relationships of sniper-related television viewing, prior life-threatening events, and parental status to identification with attack victims.
Participants were 1238 residents of the DC area (aged 18-90 years, mean=41.7 years; 51% female; 68% white) who completed an online survey that assessed identification with sniper attack victims, amount of television viewing, and prior life-threatening events. Identification was measured by using a previously developed scale that assessed to what extent participants identified victims as similar to themselves, a friend, or a family member.
The relationship of television viewing to identification was examined by using multivariate linear regression analyses. In univariate analyses, female gender, having children, higher levels of television viewing, and past life-threatening events were independently related to greater identification. After adjustment for demographics and life-threatening events, sniper-related television viewing continued to be associated with identification (B=0.61, P≤0.001, ∆R2=0.07). Examination of the interactions of television viewing by parental status and television viewing by life-threatening event revealed significant relationships.
Attention to events preceding and during a terrorist event could help in the recognition of those at particular risk for increased identification with attack victims. These findings also have implications for recommendations for media exposure during an event. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2018; 12: 337–344)
For over 3 weeks in October 2002, a series of sniper attacks in the Washington, DC, area left 10 people dead and 3 wounded. This study examined the relationship of distress associated with routine activities and perceived safety to psychological and behavioral responses.
Participants were 1238 residents of the Washington, DC, metropolitan area (aged 18 to 90 years, mean=41.7 years) who completed an Internet survey including the Impact of Event Scale-Revised, Patient Health Questionnaire-9, and items pertaining to distress related to routine activities, perceived safety, and alcohol use. Data were collected at one time point approximately 3 weeks after the first sniper shooting and before apprehension of the suspects. Relationships of distress and perceived safety to post-traumatic stress, depressive symptoms, and increased alcohol use were examined by using linear and logistic regression analyses.
Approximately 8% of the participants met the symptom criteria for probable post-traumatic stress disorder, 22% reported mild to severe depression, and 4% reported increased alcohol use during the attacks. Distress related to routine activities and perceived safety were associated with increased post-traumatic stress and depressive symptoms and alcohol use.
Distress and perceived safety are associated with specific routine activities and both contribute to psychological and behavioral responses during a terrorist attack. These findings have implications for targeted information dissemination and risk communication by community leaders. (Disaster Med Public Health Preparedness. 2015;9:509–515)
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