A focus group study of the impact of trauma exposure in the 9/11 terrorist attacks

Carol S North, Carissa J. Barney, David E. Pollio

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Purpose: Much of the mental health research that has emerged from the September 11 (9/11) attacks has been focused on posttraumatic stress disorder and its symptoms. To better understand the broader experience of individuals following a disaster, focus groups were conducted with individuals from affected companies both at Ground Zero and elsewhere in New York City.

Methods: Twenty-one focus groups with a total of 140 participants were conducted in the second post-9/11 year. Areas of identified concern were coded into the following themes: Disaster Experience, Emotional Responses, Workplace Issues, Coping, and Issues of Public Concern.

Results: Discussions of focus groups included material represented in all five themes in companies both at Ground Zero and elsewhere. The emphasis and the content within these themes varied between the Ground Zero and other companies. Content suggesting symptoms of PTSD represented only a minority of the material, especially in the company groups not at Ground Zero.

Conclusions: This study’s findings revealed an array of psychosocial concerns following the 9/11 attacks among employees of companies in New York City that extended far beyond PTSD. This study’s results provide further evidence that trauma exposure is central to individuals’ post-disaster experience and focus, and to individuals’ adjustment and experience after disaster.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)569-578
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 2015


  • Disaster
  • Focus groups
  • Mental health
  • Psychosocial concerns
  • September 11 terrorist attacks
  • Trauma exposure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Epidemiology
  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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