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Anxiety & Panic Disorders Health Center

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Air Travelers More Stressed After 9/11

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

March 27, 2002 -- Checking in at the airport and flying in an airplane will never be same after the tragic events of Sept. 11, and a new study shows air passengers are feeling the stress.

The survey found the number of commercial air travelers that say they now find flying to be at least somewhat stressful has grown to 81% in the wake of Sept. 11. Passengers that were once concerned with convenience and comfort are now more worried about personal safety and security.

"It's fair to say that the events of Sept. 11 appear to have shifted travelers' greatest concerns away from flight delays and cancellations," says study author Jonathan Bricker, a doctoral student at the University of Washington, in a news release. "Travelers' current primary preoccupation with their own safety is accompanied by an annoyance with a host of hassles associated with increased security procedures."

The study compared the attitudes of nearly 1,900 domestic and international air travelers who were surveyed in May through July of 2001 or in January and February of 2002.

Bricker says post-Sept. 11 travelers seem to be most stressed by "hurry-up-and-wait problems" such as having to arrive early and waiting in long lines at the airport. Only a very small percentage of fliers, less than 2%, said they were most anxious about terrorism.

The surveys did show that women are now slightly more concerned about air travel then men. Before Sept. 11, men and women had similar levels of air travel anxiety.

But the study also found that passengers are now less stressed about some aspects of air travel. Fliers are less tense when a flight is late and not as concerned when a plane is sitting at the gate or on the tarmac. In addition, passengers now have a more positive perception of their fellow passengers -- including babies and small children.

Bricker presented his findings at a meeting this week of the Anxiety Disorders Association of America in Austin, Texas.

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