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Responses of Clergy to 9/11: Posttraumatic Stress, Coping, and Religious Outcomes

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This study examines posttraumatic stress, religious coping, and nonreligious coping in relation to positive religious outcomes following the tragedies of 9/11. In November 2001, a mailed survey of 814 active, ordained ministers in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) measured posttraumatic stress, perceived threat, coping activities, positive and negative religious coping, positive religious outcomes, and perceived congregational responses. A majority of the respondents (75 percent) experienced some posttraumatic stress symptoms, with 63 percent feeling threatened for their personal safety. Nonreligious coping behaviors included contributing money (60 percent) and displaying the flag (56 percent). Looking to God for strength, support, and guidance was the most frequently used strategy; increased prayer was second. High stress was associated with higher frequency of coping strategies, both religious and nonreligious. More frequent positive religious coping was related to less severe stress symptoms of numbness and avoidance, and higher positive religious outcomes. Although religion failed to provide protection against stress in a population of religiously dedicated individuals, it provided a pathway for positive and effective coping strategies that resulted in positive religious outcomes.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Janice Bell Meisenhelder, R.N., D.N.Sc., MGH Institute of Health Professions at Massachusetts General Hospital, 36 1st Ave., Boston, MA 02129., Email: 2: John P. Marcum, Ph.D., Research Services, Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), Louisville, KY., Email:

Publication date: December 1, 2004

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