Can the news media play a key role in triggering psychological reactions to terrorism?



In July 2011, Anders Breivik killed 77 adults and children in a bombing in Oslo and a subsequent shooting on a nearby island where the Norwegian Labor Party’s youth organisation was having their summer camp. I talk with Dr Bertel Hansen of the Department of Political Science at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark about the impact of that event in Norway on the incidence of trauma- and stressor-related disorders in the neighbouring country of Denmark, and discuss this with respect to of the impact on that same population of the 9/11 attacks. We discuss the impacts of geographical proximity, cultural similarity, and the possible influence of the news media on the incidence of disorders following terrorist attacks.

Here is the link to the paper we talk about in this week’s show:

http://journals.lww.com/epidem/Abstract/publishahead/Increased_incidence_rate_of_trauma__and.98821.aspx

Here is the abstract for some context:

BACKGROUND: On July 22, 2011, Anders Breivik killed 77 adults and children in Norway. Having recently documented increases in the incidence of trauma- and stressor-related disorders in Denmark after the 9/11 attacks, we hypothesized that the Breivik attacks-due to their geographical proximity-would be followed by even larger increases in Denmark.

METHODS: Using population-based data from the Danish Psychiatric Central Research Register (1995-2012), we conducted an intervention analysis of the change in the incidence of trauma- and stressor-related disorders following the Breivik attacks.

RESULTS: The incidence rate increased by 16% over the following 11/2 years after the Breivik attacks, corresponding to 2,736 additional cases. In comparison, 9/11 was followed by a 4% increase. We also present evidence of a subsequent surge in incidence stimulated by media attention.

CONCLUSION: This study bolsters previous findings on extra-national consequences of terrorism and indicates that geographical proximity and media coverage may exacerbate effects.

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