Differences in PTSD prevalence and associated risk factors among World Trade Center disaster rescue and recovery workers

Megan A. Perrin, Laura DiGande, Katherine Wheeler, Lorna Thorpe, Mark Farfel, Robert Brackbill

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: This study compared the prevalence and risk factors of current probable posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) across different occupations involved in rescue/recovery work at the World Trade Center site. Method: Rescue and recovery workers enrolled in the World Trade Center Health Registry who reported working at the World Trade Center site (N=28,962) were included in the analysis. Interviews conducted 2-3 years after the disaster included assessments of demographic characteristics, within-disaster and work experiences related to the World Trade Center, and current probable PTSD. Results: The overall prevalence of PTSD among rescue/recovery workers was 12.4%, ranging from 6.2% for police to 21.2% for unaffiliated volunteers. After adjustments, the greatest risk of developing PTSD was seen among construction/engineering workers, sanitation workers, and unaffiliated volunteers. Earlier start date and longer duration of time worked at the World Trade Center site were significant risk factors for current probable PTSD for all occupations except police, and the association between duration of time worked and current probable PTSD was strongest for those who started earlier. The prevalence of PTSD was significantly higher among those who performed tasks not common for their occupation. Conclusions: Workers and volunteers in occupations least likely to have had prior disaster training or experience were at greatest risk of PTSD. Disaster preparedness training and shift rotations to enable shorter duration of service at the site may reduce PTSD among workers and volunteers in future disasters.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1385-1394
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Psychiatry
Issue number9
StatePublished - Sep 2007

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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