Community Mental Health Journal

, Volume 39, Issue 2, pp 157-165

First online:

Brief Report: The Emotional Distress in a Community After the Terrorist Attack on the World Trade Center

  • Hongtu ChenAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical SchoolCharles B. Wang Community Health Center Email author 
  • , Henry ChungAffiliated withCharles B. Wang Community Health Center
  • , Teddy ChenAffiliated withSchool of Social Work, Columbia UniversityCharles B. Wang Community Health Center
  • , Lin FangAffiliated withSchool of Social Work, Columbia UniversityCharles B. Wang Community Health Center
  • , Jian-Ping ChenAffiliated withDepartment of Psychiatry, Albert Einstein College of MedicineCharles B. Wang Community Health Center

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Objectives: To examine psychological impact of the September 11th disaster on the immediate neighborhood of the New York World Trade Center.

Methods: 555 residents from the local Chinatown community participated in the study. They were surveyed retrospectively on their emotional distress immediately after the tragedy and five months later.

Results: Prevalent anxiety was found in general community residents and additional depression in those who lost family members or friends. The mental health condition of the community improved tremendously five months later, with the initial 59% of general residents having 4 or more emotional symptoms dropping to 17%. However, More than half of the community residents had persistently shown one or more symptoms of emotional distress. Those who had lost a family member or friend in the disaster showed significantly higher distress, with 90% of them had four or more major psychiatric symptoms during the first few weeks right after the disaster, and the rate dropped to 35% five months later. Overall, those in their 40s and 50s seemed to have had relatively higher emotional distress than both younger and older groups.

Discussion: Methodological limitations were discussed concerning retrospective reporting and sample characteristics.

emotional distress disaster September 11th community