According to terror management theory (TMT), an event that heightens awareness of death produces the need to defend against existential anxiety. The horrifying events of September 11, 2001 (9/11), created an unparalleled opportunity to apply TMT beyond the laboratory. This study examined post-9/11 stress (via perceived stress scale [PSS] scores) and interview responses of a diverse community sample of American midlife women (ages 35-60). Previous studies showed that many women have high stress during midlife, suggesting that 9/11 could have a unique impact on this segment of the U.S. population. Education of the sample ranged from 12 to 23 years. Seventy-five percent had children and 70.6% were married. Data analysis showed that 4 to 6 months after 9/11, 61% of the women were still distressed, exhibiting symptoms of fear, sadness, anger, powerlessness, distrust, and vigilance. Highly stressed women (upper 25% on PSS) differed in several respects from low-stress women (lower 25% on PSS). As predicted by TMT, core values central to a woman's world view were activated by 9/11. Patriotism and altruism increased, but bigotry intensified as well. Major changes (e.g., marriage, moving) were undertaken only by a small percentage (18%), but all expressed the view, "None of us will ever be the same again." Women who had experienced previous trauma felt that their background actually helped them cope.
- psychosocial factors,
- descriptive research