The effect of indirect (versus direct) exposure to a traumatic event on the quality of life of terrorist attack victims has received considerable attention in the literature. However, more research is required to examine whether the symptoms and underlying processes caused by both types of exposure are equivalent. Our main hypothesis is that well-being plays a different role depending on indirect vs. direct trauma exposure.
In this cross-sectional study, eighty direct victims of 11-M terrorist attacks (people who were traveling in trains where bombs were placed) and two-hundred indirect victims (individuals highly exposed to the 11-M terrorist attacks through communications media) voluntarily participated without compensation. To test our hypothesis regarding the mediating role of indirect exposure, we conducted a biased corrected bootstrapping procedure. To test our hypothesis regarding the moderating role of direct exposure, data were subjected to a hierarchical regression analysis.
As predicted, for indirect trauma exposure, well-being mediated the relationship between post-traumatic dysfunctional cognitions and trauma symptoms. However, for direct trauma exposure, well-being moderated the relationship between post-traumatic dysfunctional cognitions and trauma symptoms.
The results of our study indicate that the different role of well-being found between indirect (causal factor) and direct exposure (protective factor) should be taken into consideration in interventions designed to improve victims’ health.