The prevalence, characteristics, and correlates of anger among survivors of the 9/11 World Trade Center attacks

BACKGROUND: Anger is a prominent and common emotion in post-disaster settings. However, there has been little systematic investigation of the association of anger with psychopathology or other individual characteristics in disaster survivors. This study examined anger responses reported by disaster survivors and correlates of that anger.

METHODS: Structured interviews were conducted with a volunteer sample of 379 employees of 7 agencies that were highly affected by the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. Individuals were asked about their level of anger toward various entities and their coping methods after the disaster. Assessments were made for disaster-related posttraumatic stress disorder and other psychiatric disorders using the Diagnostic Interview Schedule for DSM-IV. Specifics of disaster trauma exposure were assessed using the Disaster Supplement.

RESULTS: Anger was prevalent but was not associated with disaster trauma exposure. Anger was generally associated with lower level of education, younger age, and racial minority group membership, and was more prominent in survivors with indicators of post-disaster mental health problems.

CONCLUSIONS: Anger may serve as an identifier of individuals at risk for psychopathology or who are at least highly distressed. There are potential implications for risk communication to address anger in the post-disaster setting.

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