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PTSD and pulmonary illness in 9/11 responders


For many of the 9/11 first responders post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and respiratory illness came as a package deal. More than a decade after the terrorist attacks, researchers from Stony Brook’s World Trade Center Health Program have published their research showing a definitive link between the two health problems.

Recovery workers who showed up at the site that day were exposed to both extreme mental trauma and to an extraordinary environmental disaster. The persistent health challenges caused by PTSD and respiratory illness are due to the extreme emotional trauma of witnessing such enormous destruction and deaths, as well as exposure to the explosion of jet fuel, smoldering debris and airborne toxins.

“This study illustrates the integral relationship between mental health and physical diseases that WTC responders suffer. The analysis not only shows that relationship but also connects PTSD as a possible co-factor in responders’ diseases, which reinforces our view at Stony Brook’s WTC Health Program that the illnesses suffered by 9/11 responders are a compilation of problems that often present as an entire syndrome of diseases and conditions,” said Dr. Benjamin Luft, MD Medical Director of Stony Brook’s World Trade Center Health Program.

After studying over 12,000 non-traditional responders and over 8,500 traditional responders the team discovered an association between PTSD and respiratory illness. They also found evidence that PTSD may be playing a mediating role in the exposure-symptom association.

Researchers found that fewer police than non-traditional responders experienced PTSD and that police also had lower rates of probably PTSD. However both groups had comparable pulmonary function test results. “Mental and physical health are integrally linked. It is not always obvious which one is the driver, but in the end, what matters is that both mental and physical health are recognized and treated with equal care an respect,” said Dr. Bromet, expert on psychiatric epidemiology and disaster research.

Source: Psychological Medicine, MedicalNewsToday

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