‘Terrorism does not terrorize’ suggests new global health study
A review of 400 research articles that examine the link between terrorist attacks and mental health suggests that terrorism is not correlated with increased distress in comparison with other distressing events. The association of terrorism with global/public health concerns that is often made in commentaries are likely the result of overstatement due to the contemporary tendency to project worst case scenarios, especially in areas of mental health. The study also found that research on the link between terrorism and mental health is very young, with very few studies emerging before 2000.
According to the lead author, “after 9/11 there was an enormous push to uncover evidence of PTSD in people who said that they had been affected by those events either directly or indirectly through the media. Despite this, the reassuring conclusion of our work is that terrorism does not terrorize – at least not any more than being traumatized by any other challenging event. In that regard, our findings fly in the face of various announcements from politicians, officials, the media and even other academics that terrorist incidents impact our mental health and wellbeing adversely. That is not to say that people who experience traumatic events do not need psychological support, but we believe that it is unhelpful to categorize more people than is true with PTSD. We are also saying that there were many other effects of 9/11 that were overlooked – primarily respiratory disorders, as well as economic and social ones, such as people losing their jobs. There is clear evidence of people’s resilience in the face of such events and so, for us, it is important for politicians, the media and commentators to take these findings on board and re-focus attention more on this in the face of such terrible events.”