Increased Incidence Rate of Trauma- and Stressor-Related Disorders in Denmark After the September 11, 2001, Terrorist Attacks in the United States

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Abstract

The terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001 (hereafter referred to as 9/11) in the United States had a profound impact on the physical and mental health of Americans, but the effects beyond the United States are largely unknown. To understand the wider aftermath, we examined the consequences of the 9/11 attacks on mental disorders in the Kingdom of Denmark. Utilizing population data from the Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register from 1995 to 2012, we used a time-series intervention approach to estimate the change in the incidence rate of mental disorders after the 9/11 attacks. Based on analyses of 1,448,250 contacts with psychiatric services, we found that the attacks were followed by an immediate 16% increase in the incidence rate of trauma- and stressor-related disorders. This surge dissipated approximately a year after 9/11. In contrast, no similar increases were found for other disorders. This is consistent with the prominent role of external stressors in the etiology of trauma- and stressor-related disorders. The results indicate that the effects of 9/11 on mental disorders extended across the Atlantic Ocean to Denmark. Thus, the impact of terrorist attacks on mental health is likely not limited to inhabitants of the country under attack; it also extends to people far away and without immediate relation to it.

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