Tens of thousands of New York City schoolchildren were suffering from depression, severe anxiety, and other mental-health disorders six months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, according to a new study.
The findings were turned up in a study of nearly 8,300 4th through 12th graders in the 1.1 million-student district. The children were surveyed in February and March by researchers and psychologists working with the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta. An overview of their report was released by the city’s board of education last week.
The study estimates that 10.5 percent of students in grades 4-12, or 75,000 youngsters, suffered symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder after the attack. Just over 60,000 students are estimated to have suffered from serious depression, nearly 74,000 from anxiety, and 107,000 from agoraphobia, which is the fear of being in or near public places.
Of the children with probable post-traumatic stress disorder, the report says roughly one-fifth sought help or counseling from a school counselor.
For the study, about 900 students in each of the nine grades—who were randomly selected from a total of 94 schools throughout the city—filled out questionnaires. Students attending schools near “Ground Zero” of the terrorist attack in Lower Manhattan, and near the site of the crash last November of a commercial airliner in the Rockaways neighborhood in Queens, made up two-thirds of the survey sample. The rest attended schools in neighborhoods throughout the city.
One of the primary questions researchers and district officials wanted to answer was whether the problems experienced by students since the Sept. 11 attack were unique to schools located closest to the World Trade Center.
The answer was no.
While children in schools at or very near Ground Zero were the most physically exposed to the event, those in schools outside that area were more likely to have family members who were at the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, according to the report. They were also more likely to have experienced previous trauma.
Both factors increased the likelihood of developing post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of Sept. 11, the researchers concluded.
A version of this article appeared in the May 08, 2002 edition of Education Week as N.Y.C. Students Suffer Post- Sept. 11 Trauma, Study Finds