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Terrorism, Distress, and Drinking: Vulnerability and Protective Factors

Richman, Judith A. PhD; Rospenda, Kathleen M. PhD; Cloninger, Lea PhD

The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease: December 2009 - Volume 197 - Issue 12 - p 909-917
doi: 10.1097/NMD.0b013e3181c29a39
Original Article

Research has demonstrated effects of 9/11 on distress and drinking outcomes in individuals directly affected and indirectly affected across the United States. Fewer studies have addressed vulnerability and protective factors shown to moderate the effects of stress exposure. We report findings from a Midwestern workplace cohort study. Respondents to a 6 wave longitudinal mail survey completed questionnaires prior to September 11, 2001 and again in 2003 and 2005. Regression analyses encompassed measures of terrorism-related beliefs and fears, workplace stressors (sexual harassment, generalized abuse and low decision latitude), marital and parental status, and perceived social support in 2003, and distress and deleterious drinking outcomes in 2005. Analyses showed that terrorism-related fears significantly interacted with workplace stressors and interpersonal social relationships in predicting distress, drinking or both, controlling for pre-9/11 distress and drinking. Gender differences were also found. This article suggests that certain individuals may be at heightened risk for distressful reactions to and/or deleterious drinking resulting from terrorism-related issues and fears due to additional risk factors involving workplace stressors and inadequate interpersonal bonds. However, limitations of the study were noted and future research was recommended.

Department of Psychiatry, University of Illinois, Chicago, IL.

Supported by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (grant R01AA00989).

The contents of this article are solely the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official views of NIH.

Send reprint requests to Judith A. Richman, PhD, Department of Psychiatry (m/c 912), University of Illinois at Chicago, 1601 W Taylor St, Chicago IL 60612. E-mail:

© 2009 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.