This study examined media exposure and adjustment to anthrax bioterrorism attacks and the terrorist attacks on 9/11 in a sample of 300 people who lived distant from the attacks. Measures of direct and indirect exposure to terrorism, perceived risk of anthrax exposure, psychological distress, and outlook were assessed at 2 to 3 months and at 8 months after the first reported anthrax attack. Initial anthrax media exposure was a powerful predictor of distress, whereas subsequent anthrax media exposure only predicted negative changes in outlook over time. Perceived risk of anthrax exposure predicted distress and outlook but did not appear to mediate the effects of media exposure. Determining the nature and consequences of media exposure to threatening and frightening events like terrorism will help predict and manage response to future bioterrorism.
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