Viewing Media Coverage of Terrorism Related to Posttraumatic Stress Reactions; Youth Particularly Susceptible

[April 12, 2010]

A meta-analysis of 23 existing terrorism studies found that exposure to media coverage of terrorism is related to posttraumatic stress reactions.

The meta-analysis also found that the relationship between exposure to media coverage of terrorism and posttraumatic stress was greater for studies involving youth and for studies including people who were farther away from the terrorist event.

These results mean that youth who are further away from the terrorism event are at increased risk for developing posttraumatic stress reactions resulting from exposure to media coverage of a terrorist event.

“Parents, teachers, counselors, and anyone else who works or lives with children should be aware of these effects,” said Dr. J. Brian Houston, an Assistant Professor of Research in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center who authored this study.

“The mental health needs of youth not directly affected by terrorism may not be obvious in the aftermath of a terrorist attack, but by analyzing the results of several terrorism studies together we can see that this group experiences the greatest amount of posttraumatic stress reactions related to exposure to media coverage of terrorism.”

Dr. Houston says that future work should focus on developing public health interventions for youth that are aimed at ameliorating these potentially negative effects of media use.

Posttraumatic stress reactions may include: feeling hopeless, detached from others, and numb; having trouble concentrating; being startled easily; feeling always on guard; experiencing nightmares and trouble sleeping; and having problems at work or school.

Meta-analysis is the process of combining numerous existing research studies to answer research questions or hypotheses. Meta-analysis provides a more powerful estimate of how variables are related than is possible from a single research study.

CONTACT: J. Brian Houston, Assistant Professor of Research and Program Director for the Terrorism and Disaster Center in the Department of Psychiatry at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, 405.271.8001 ext. 47633, brian-houston@ouhsc.edu

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