Bereaved Children Of 9/11 Victims Suffered High Rates Of Psychiatric Illness
The rate of psychiatric illness among children who lost a parent in the Sept. 11, 2001, World Trade Center attack doubled -- from about 32 to nearly 73 percent -- in the years following the event, according to a new study in the journal Biological Psychiatry. The study was conducted by researchers at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.
More than half (56.8 percent) of the young children studied suffered from some sort of anxiety disorder, including post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which affected nearly three in 10 bereaved children.
- More than half (56.8 percent) of the young children studied suffered from some sort of anxiety disorder
- 3 out of 10 children in this bereaved groups were positive for a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- heightened activity of the brain's "stress-response system" in many children who lost a parent on 9/11
- Continued activation of this system can lead to long-term hypersensitivity to stress as adults and even impact on bone health, since the stress hormone cortisol can harm bone.
- PTSD rates were 10 times that seen in non-bereaved children
- 27.3 percent of bereaved youngsters suffered from separation anxiety, double the rate seen in non-bereaved youngsters
- 25 percent experienced generalized anxiety, double the rate seen in non-bereaved youngsters
- rates of simple phobias in bereaved children was also double that of non-bereaved children (13.6 percent vs. 5.9 percent).
- rates of major depressive disorder in bereaved children was twice that of non-bereaved children -- 13.6 percent compared to 5.9 percent, respectively
- the researchers conducted saliva analysis and idenitfied elevated cortisol levels in many bereaved children throughout the two-year study. That suggests that the HPA axis remained switched on at a relatively high level
- chronic HPA activation in childhood may make individuals hypersensitive to stressors throughout their lifespan. Chronically elevated cortisol levels can also negatively impact bone health and boost risks for insulin-related dysfunction.