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Inner Strength

Most of the victims of Hurricane Katrina will be OK. Psychologically at least.

Even among people who were in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001, 53 percent had no lasting psychiatric ill-effects, said researcher George Bonanno, an Associate Professor at Columbia University's Teachers College, who is preparing to publish a new study on the subject of resilience, the characteristic that allows people to withstand enormously stressful situations without lasting psychological damage.

''We used to think of resilience as a rare phenomenon," he said. ''But the evidence seems to show that resilience is quite common -- it's an ordinary phenomenon, it's not extraordinary."

Since 1990 he and colleagues have interviewed hundreds of mourners and used standardized measurements, such as facial expressions, to determine distress over grief. Bonanno has compiled data from his studies and scores of others, and all reach similar conclusions: Grief treatments are mostly ineffective, and humans are generally resilient. His research, presented recently at the American Psychiatric Association's annual    meeting, finds that about 85 percent of people adequately cope with their grief within a year or two. Most don't need professional help or prolonged "grief work."

This article, written by Carey Goldberg, appeared in the September 19th, 2005 publication of The Boston Globe. previous page