With post traumatic stress disorder and respiratory ailments among the top health problems faced by many 9/11 responders, a new Stony Brook University-led study has found a link between the two.
World Trade Center Health Program director Dr. Benjamin J. Luft, who led the study along with Evelyn Bromet, a distinguished professor in the departments of psychiatry and behavioral science, and preventive medicine, said the study proves a key link between mental health and physical diseases in 9/11 responders.
"The analysis not only shows that relationship but also connects PTSD as a possible co-factor in responders’ diseases, which reinforces our view at Stony Brook’s WTC Health Program that the illnesses suffered by 9/11 responders are a compilation of problems that often present as an entire syndrome of diseases and conditions," Luft said in a statement.
The study involved 8,508 traditional first responders, such as police officers, and 12,333 non-traditional responders, such as maintenance workers, who were examined between July 16, 2002, and Sept. 11, 2008. The examinations were conducted not only at Stony Brook but also at other WTC health programs in the New York metro area.
The study found that 22.5 percent of police and 28.4 percent of non-traditional responders suffered respiratory symptoms, and 5.9 percent of police and 28 percent of non-traditional responders suffered from probably PTSD. It also found similar rates of diminished pulmonary function in both groups, along with a correlation between PTSD and respiratory symptoms.
Bromet said the findings of the study mirror research results in veterans' populations and other primary care patients.
"Mental and physical health are integrally linked," she said. "It is not always obvious which one is the driver, but in the end, what matters is that both mental and physical health are recognized and treated with equal care and respect."
The study, titled "Exposure, Probable PTSD and Lower Respiratory Illness Among World Trade Center Rescue, Recovery and Clean-Up Workers," has been published in the journal Psychological Medicine.