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New Study Shows Link Between 9/11-Related PTSD and Obesity

June, 2020

While the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) on veterans are well-known and widely documented, its effects on the general population are less clear. A new study, titled “Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and the Association With Overweight, Obesity, and Weight Change Among Individuals Exposed to the World Trade Center Disaster, 2003-2016,” has established a link between PTSD sufferers exposed to the 9/11 disaster and obesity. The study was published in May 2020 in the journal Psychological Medicine. For more information about the health risks associated with 9/11-related PTSD, please contact a 9/11 attorney. 

The study’s researchers examined individuals from the World Trace Center Health Registry whose post-9/11 health conditions had been assessed on multiple surveys between 2003 and 2016 (Waves 1-4). The researchers then categorized the participants’ post-9/11 PTSD symptoms as either “no,” “intermittent,” or “persistent.” Finally, they examined two outcomes: (1) Wave 3 BMI (normal, overweight, and obese), and (2) the participants’ weight change between their Wave 3 and Wave 4 assessments. 

The study found that, at the Wave 3 assessment, the presence of obesity was highest among participants with persistent PTSD (39.5%) and intermittent PTSD (36.6%). Those with no PTSD symptoms had a lower obesity rate (29.3%). Overall, the study showed that persistent and intermittent 9/11-related PTSD symptoms are associated with higher rates of obesity. 

Study Supports Previous Findings

The new study supports widespread agreement among the existing literature that PTSD and obesity are related conditions. A 2019 review of multiple studies published in the journal Biomedicine & Pharmacology “strongly supports” the hypothesis that PTSD can be accompanied by obesity and its related metabolic disturbances. The precise mechanisms that cause this association are not known. However, researchers believe that disturbances in cerebral functions associated with PTSD can lead to uncontrolled appetites and a tendency to abuse alcohol, which can eventually result in obesity. The review recommends strict dietary regulations with minimal intake of sweets and saturated fats as a remedy. 

Obesity Is a Serious Risk for 9/11 Survivors

Given the prevalence of PTSD symptoms among 9/11 survivors and first responders, obesity is a serious health risk for these populations. An individual is considered to be “obese” when his or her body mass index (BMI) is over 30. Individuals with BMIs of 25-29.9 are considered overweight, but not obese. Obesity is linked to a wide variety of health risks, including: 

  • Heart disease and stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Cancer
  • Gallbladder disease
  • Osteoarthritis
  • Gout
  • Sleep apnea

The link between PTSD and obesity reflects the urgency for an interdisciplinary focus on both physical and mental health to improve health outcomes. 

Contact a 9/11 Attorney for More Information About 9/11-Related PTSD

If you suffer 9/11-related PTSD, you may be entitled to compensation. For more information about PTSD, obesity, and the long-term health effects of 9/11, please contact a 9/11 attorney at Pitta & Baione by using our online form or calling us at 212-658-1766.