Behavioral Science
Psychological and behavioural reactions to the bombings in London on 7 July 2005
Aug 30, 2005 - 6:59:38 PM

Almost two weeks after the London terrorist attacks, the majority of Londoners reported that they were coping well with their emotional responses, finds a study published online by the BMJ.

Emotional reactions to terrorist incidents vary. High levels of stress were reported after the attacks in the United States on 11 September 2001, and after the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City.

To assess the psychological effects of the attacks in London on 7 July 2005, researchers surveyed a representative sample of 1,010 Londoners. The interviews asked about current levels of stress and travel intentions, and took place from Monday 18 to Wednesday 20 July, before a second failed attack on London’s transport network on Thursday 21 July.

Thirty one percent of participants reported substantial stress, and 32% reported that they would now reduce the amount they used the tube, trains, buses, or go into central London.

Among other things, having difficulty contacting others by mobile phone, and believing you or a close friend or relative might have been injured or killed, were associated with higher levels of stress.

Muslims reported significantly more stress than people of other faiths, whereas being white and having previous experience of terrorism (e.g. experience of IRA terrorism in London) was associated with reduced stress.

Only 12 participants (1%) felt that they needed professional help to deal with their emotions, whereas 71% had spoken to friends or relatives about the attacks. This suggests that most people are able to turn to lay support networks after traumatic events, say the authors.

“Despite some study limitations, these results are reassuring,” write the authors. “Although the psychological needs of those intimately caught up in the attacks will require further assessment, we found no evidence of a widespread desire for professional counselling.”

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