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9/11 boosted trust in government, temporary distress, research shows

(Embargoed) CHAPEL HILL -- Analyses of responses given by thousands of young U.S. adults interviewed shortly after the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, showed surges both in sadness and in trust in government when compared with responses to interviews conducted shortly before the disasters. As expected, the closer respondents were to the crash sites, the more powerfully they were affected.

Overall, reported sadness returned to pre-incident levels within four to six weeks, while increased trust in national, state and local governments tended to persist, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill researchers found.

Men were more likely to report religious and spiritual feelings afterwards than before, and women were more likely to report higher levels of psychological stress than men following the attacks.

"Young adults between the ages of 18 and 26 were an important group to look at after 9/11 since some people perceive them to be anti-establishment and in at least one study they appeared to be more affected by the attacks than older Americans," said leader researcher Dr. Carol A. Ford. "They are the ones who disproportionately fight our wars."

The UNC study, by far the largest of its kind and in a way unique, involved analyzing data gathered during the third wave of interviews for the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health. Nicknamed "Add Health," the research is a continuing long-term study of important influences on adolescents' lives. Wave I of the project, which involved 90-minute confidential interviews with randomly selected secondary school students, began in 1994. Wave II began in 1996.

Wave III analyzed answers to in-depth questionnaires administered personally and anonymously via computer to almost 3,000 subjects, aged 18 to 26, within two months before 9/11 and to identical questionnaires completed by more than 4,000 others up to two months afterward.

A report Ford, associate professor of ped
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Contact: David Williamson
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
9-Jun-2003


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