Background: A major psychological sequel of terrorist attacks is post-traumatic stress disorder. The relation between certain psychological factors specific to terrorist attacks (e.g., perceived control attributed to oneself/to the military, anticipated duration of terrorism) and PTSD symptoms have not been examined.
Objective: To examine the prevalence, correlates and moderators of PTSD-like symptoms following terrorist attacks in Israel.
Methods: Soon after a long wave of terrorist attacks in Israel in 2002, a convenience sample of 149 Israelis from five cities was assessed for terrorist attack exposure, perceived control, control attributed to the government/military, anticipated duration of the terrorism wave (predictability), and frequency of listening to the news. PTSD-like symptoms were assessed with a brief self-report scale.
Results: We found that 15.4% of the sample was directly exposed to a terrorist attack and 36.5% knew someone close who had been exposed to an attack. “Clinically significant” PTSD-like symptoms were reported by 10.1% of the sample. Correlates of PTSD-like symptoms were: perceived control in men, government control, and education in women (all inversely correlated to PTSD symptoms), and news-listening frequency in women (positively correlated to PTSD symptoms). PTSD-like symptoms were attenuated by the ability to predict the duration of the terrorism wave only in citizens exposed to an attack, and by perceived government control only among citizens listening infrequently to the news.
Conclusions: This study revealed that approximately 10% of Israelis in our sample had relatively frequent PTSD-like symptoms. Correlates of PTSD-like symptoms differed between men and women, and moderator effects were found. These findings reveal additional moderators that may have implications for treating PTSD following terrorist attacks.