Watching media coverage of traumatic events such as 9/11 can cause negative stress reactions or Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Individuals can be significantly affected by media events even though they were not present and only watched them on television.

Dr Ramsden asked participants to fill in a questionnaire to assess Post Traumatic Stress symptoms after viewing four traumatic events. They were also questioned about their previous experiences of trauma.

Nineteen per cent of the 89 participants in the study were significantly affected by media events and scored high on clinical measures of PTSD. There were also high correlations with the number of times they had viewed the events in the media. These participants had experienced no previous trauma in their lives.

Dr Ramsden said: "Acts of violence erode our sense of security and create intense feelings of anger, fear and helplessness. Watching these events and feeling the anguish of those who are directly experiencing them can impact on a certain percentage of individuals causing longer lasting effects. It is important that additional support and guidance is provided in communities at times of extreme violence and terroristic acts."

The British Psychological Society Annual Conference is taking place at the Holiday Inn, Brighton Seafront from 1- 3 April 2009.

British Psychological Society