Original Paper

American Journal of Community Psychology

, Volume 39, Issue 1, pp 79-90

First online:

New York City young adults’ psychological reactions to 9/11: findings from the Reach for Health longitudinal study

  • Gail AgronickAffiliated withEducation Development Center, Inc. Email author 
  • , Ann StueveAffiliated withEducation Development Center, Inc.
  • , Sue VargoAffiliated withEducation Development Center, Inc.
  • , Lydia O’DonnellAffiliated withEducation Development Center, Inc.

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This research examines psychological distress among 955 economically disadvantaged New York City residents surveyed during high school and again after the September 11th terrorist attacks (9/11), when they were young adults. As part of the longitudinal Reach for Health study, young adult surveys were conducted from 6–19 months post-9/11 (average 8 months), providing opportunity to assess types of exposures and psychological distress, including symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression, hopelessness, and anger. Regressions of psychological distress on 9/11 exposure were performed, controlling for high school distress, prior exposure to violence victimization, and socio-demographic characteristics. Exposure to 9/11 was positively associated with anger, hopelessness, and PTSD symptoms and a measure of global distress. The relationship was greater among women for PTSD symptoms. Although those who reported high school distress also reported more distress in young adulthood, prior psychological distress did not moderate the relationship between exposure and psychological outcomes. Greater exposure is related to distress among those who, during high school, reported lower distress, as well as among those who reported prior greater distress.


September 11th Terrorism Psychological distress Ethnic/racial minority Longitudinal PTSD Symptoms