Survivors of Oklahoma City Bombing Experience ‘Post-Traumatic Growth’

While many survivors still experience depression and anxiety, they also value life more and feel stronger.

TORONTO — While survivors of the April 1995 bombing of a federal building in Oklahoma City are still suffering mental health impacts more than 20 years after the tragedy, the event also had some positive consequences in terms of personal growth and improvements in coping for victims.

Phebe Tucker, MD, a psychiatrist at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center in Oklahoma City, who has treated survivors of the bombing since it happened, looked at 138 direct survivors, 80% of whom were injured by the blast, and 171 individuals not directly affected by the blast.

The two groups were match based on age, gender, ethnicity and annual household income.

Although bombing survivors had more depression and anxiety symptoms than the control group, and also reported drinking more alcohol in the prior week, “there was no difference in medical problems between survivors and controls” or greater use of medical care, Tucker said during a presentation at the American Psychiatry Association Annual Meeting.

In addition, survivors also reported improvements in what Tucker called a “post-traumatic growth inventory.” This included feelings such as valuing life more, feeling stronger than one thought, being better able to handle stress and understanding spirituality better.


Tucker P. Lasting Impact of Direct Exposure to Terrorism on Health, Mental Health and Post-Traumatic Growth. Presentation at: APA 2015. May 16-20, 2015; Toronto, Canada.