Motivation and Emotion

, 29:385 | Cite as

Future-Oriented Thinking and Adjustment in a Nationwide Longitudinal Study Following the September 11th Terrorist Attacks


We conducted a three-year longitudinal study of the mental and physical health of a national probability sample following the September 11th terrorist attacks. Adjustment over the three years following the attacks was associated with higher levels of future-oriented thinking and lower levels of fear about future terrorism (as measured 1, 2, and 3 years post-9/11), even after adjusting for demographics, lifetime trauma, pre-9/11 mental and physical health, and 9/11-related exposure. Future orientation over the three years post-9/11 was associated with fewer pre-9/11 mental health problems, greater frequency of adulthood trauma, and using active coping strategies in response to the attacks. Fear of future terrorism was associated with greater frequency of adulthood trauma, more television watching immediately after the attacks, and using more planning and religion-based coping strategies immediately following the attacks. Thinking about the future can be a double-edged sword: Worrying about future terrorism may undermine well-being, whereas focusing on future goals may enhance it when coping with stressful events like the September 11th attacks.


future orientation fear of terrorism September 11th terrorist attacks coping mental health positive affect media exposure physical health temporal orientation 



The authors would like to thank Michael Poulin, Daniel McIntosh, Virginia Gil-Rivas and Judith Pizarro for their assistance with the study design and data collection, and the Knowledge Networks Government, Academic, and Non-profit Research team of J. Michael Dennis, William McCready, Kathy Dykeman, Rick Li, and Vicki Pineau for granting access to Acute Response survey data collected on KN panelists, for providing pre-9/11 health data, for preparing the Web-based versions of our questionnaires, for creating the data files, for general guidance on their methodology, and for their survey research and sampling expertise.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology and Social BehaviorUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA

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