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PTSD and Respiratory Disorders Linked in WTC Survivors

A study published in the American Journal of Public Health in January 2012 for the first time linked lower respiratory symptoms with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in adults living or working in Lower Manhattan on September 11, 2001. The study analyzed medical records of 16,363 people participating in the World Trade Center Health Program registry. Among people with either lower respiratory symptoms or PTSD, nearly one-quarter of them had both conditions. People with greater 9/11 exposure had significantly greater odds of having both conditions.

Injury victims of 9/11 with PTSD had four times the odds of also having lower respiratory symptoms when compared to other victims, while victims with lower respiratory symptoms had four times the odds of other survivors of having PTSD. Registry participants with both PTSD and lower respiratory symptoms have a lesser quality of life and more unmet mental health care needs than other groups in the study. This study complements earlier studies of rescue and recovery workers, which showed a similar link between respiratory ailments and PTSD.

In addition, this study highlights the importance of ongoing monitoring and treatment of those exposed to the 9/11 crashes and their aftermath. The significant link between comorbidity of lower respiratory symptoms and PTSD and lowered quality of life reveals an underserved population struggling with the consequences of 9/11 and an area in which the World Trade Center Health Program can concentrate its efforts to make a real and substantial impact.

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