Media Briefings

The Damaging Impact Of 9/11 On Happiness In The UK

  • Published Date: February 2011

The 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States had directly detrimental consequences for the wellbeing of UK citizens, according to new research by Dr Robert Metcalfe, Dr Nattavudh Powdthavee and Professor Paul Dolan. Their study, published in the February 2011 issue of the Economic Journal, shows that the effect of 9/11 on happiness was roughly equivalent to one-fifth of the magnitude of becoming unemployed.

The authors comment:

‘It has previously been shown that the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon had negative consequences for the wellbeing of the American population.

But for the first time, we can see that these negative consequences also happened in the UK – and that the consequences were large.’

Using a nationally representative data set for  the UK – the British Household Panel Survey – the researchers have been able to explore how measures of mental wellbeing of individuals who were randomly selected to be interviewed before 11 September 2001 differed from those who were randomly selected to be interviewed after the date of the attack in 2001.

Previous work has shown that terrorism can affect a range of economic outcomes, such as tourism, foreign direct investment and even economic growth. Yet little research has shown how terrorism can affect people’s happiness, although on the 9/11 attacks specifically, there has been some research to show that they increased stress in New York and the United States more generally.

The new research illustrates how terrorism can affect people’s happiness outside of the target country. So any policies to reduce terrorism in the United States could potentially have direct welfare consequences for citizens of the UK and elsewhere in the world.


Notes for editors: ‘Destruction and Distress: Using a Quasi-Experiment to Show the Effects of the September 11 Attacks on Subjective Well-being in the UK’ by Robert Metcalfe, Nattavudh Powdthavee and Paul Dolanis published in the February 2011 issue of the Economic Journal.

Robert Metcalfe is at the University of Oxford. Nattavudh Powdthavee is at Nanyang Technological University. Paul Dolan is at London School of Economics.

For further information: contact Robert Metcalfe via email:; or Romesh Vaitilingam on +44-7768-661095 (email: