The impact of terrorist attacks on women: A report of findings from a national survey of American women

December 06, 2001

Ability to afford health care is a top financial concern

NEW YORK, December 6, 2001 - A new national survey conducted exclusively of women, reveals that, while women continue to pay attention to and feel the impact of September 11, they are strong, knowledgeable and pragmatic. A majority of women indicated they are not changing their lives, but their concerns about economic vulnerability are greater than those related to their personal safety.

"Clearly women are listening and responding to the tragedies of September 11, and it is important that their voices be heard," said Faye Wattleton, president of the Center for Gender Equality. "It is especially critical that the public and policy makers take women's issues and concerns into account as we debate the nation's economic conditions and its preparedness for defense against bio-terrorist attacks."

-Strength and Knowledge of American Women- Eighty-seven percent of women say that they are still following terrorist-related news very or somewhat closely, and are conscious of the security and personal financial impact of September 11. The vast majority, despite the terrorist and subsequent anthrax attacks, are forging ahead with their daily lives, with only 37 percent reporting that their lives have changed. For example, only 15 percent of women cancelled travel plans and only two percent report stocking up on gas masks or an antibiotic such as Cipro.

Family and friends continue to play a significant role in women's lives; when dealing with health problems, a majority of women choose to talk to friends and family (30 percent) rather than seeking out a doctor (17 percent) or talking to a counselor or mental health professional (eight percent).

-Women and Economic Security-

Forty-six percent of women are very or somewhat worried that their economic situations will worsen, compared to 39 percent who worry that they or a family member will be a victim of terrorism. Almost a quarter of the women polled report that their personal economic situation has, in fact, worsened since the attacks and believe this was partially or completely a result of the terrorist attacks (78 percent), rather than economic factors that were in place prior to the attacks. Eighteen percent reported declining 401K or stock value and 15 percent reported job-related cutbacks. Twenty-five percent are concerned that they will need to dip into their savings.

All women - but particularly single moms, non-college educated and Latinas - are now confronting the realities of everything from paying bills to affording health insurance and groceries.

-Women and Health-

The survey also revealed the current status of women's health. For example, younger women (18-29) were less prepared to cope with the mental impact of September 11th than their older counterparts (over 64), and many younger women reported mental health consequences, such as difficulty sleeping (28 percent), anxiety (25 percent), lack of energy (24 percent) and inability to concentrate (23 percent).

Women are increasingly anxious about their ability to afford health care and about local and governmental agency preparedness for bio-terrorist attacks. For example, 22 percent are worried about their ability to afford health care coverage and 19 percent fear they could lose their benefits altogether.

Even as women focus on personal daily concerns, they want to know that their local communities are prepared for future attacks. In the event of a bio-terrorist attack, 45 percent of women say they would turn to a hospital for help, rather than to local law enforcement agencies (17 percent), personal doctors (11 percent), local health agencies (seven percent) or public health clinics (six percent). Additionally, 52 percent say making sure that hospitals and clinics have adequate supplies of vaccines and antibiotics should be one of the primary responsibilities of local agencies. Women are not confident that their local government agencies are indeed prepared - 48 percent feel that local agencies are devoting adequate resources to public safety and only 17 percent are very confident in the ability of local and law enforcement agencies to deal with bio-terrorism.

-Different Women, Different Needs-

Differences in the attitudes of women vary by ethnicity, age, sociographic and geographic segments. Thirty-eight percent of woman under 30 are very worried about further terrorist attacks, compared to 28 percent of women over 64. Twenty-nine percent of woman under 30 are very worried about future anthrax attacks, compared to 17 percent of women over 64.

Women who live in cities and suburbs and along the East and West Coasts are more anxious about terrorism (including bio-terrorist attacks) than their counterparts in rural areas and the heartland. For example, 39 percent of women living in cities indicate they are very worried about future attacks versus only 25 percent of women who live in rural areas.

-Women on the Women of Afghanistan and U.S. Policies on Women's Rights-

The survey also revealed that, despite the fact that Americans generally do not pay close attention to foreign affairs, American women have both a high degree of knowledge about and empathy toward Afghan women. Eighty-five percent of women polled have heard about the conditions of Afghan women and, without being prompted, cited specific information about the plight of Afghan women, including knowledge that Afghan women must be covered by a burqa or veil in public, are forbidden from working and/or attending school, are beaten or imprisoned for violating Taliban rules, and that they cannot leave home unless accompanied by a man. Fifty percent of women insist that the U.S. and other countries working to create a post-Taliban government must include women in the negotiations. It's interesting to note that although younger women (18-29) indicate they have heard less than older women about the treatment of Afghan women, they are equally as committed and passionate about the rights of Afghan women under a new regime.

"The Center for Gender Equality (CFGE) is committed to researching and understanding women's attitudes across a broad range of issues, particularly during this tragic time," said Wattleton. "We captured some very rich data from this in-depth survey - the first of its kind - from women exclusively. Women are interested and are paying attention to national and international developments."

Survey Focus/Content/Methodology

CFGE commissioned Greenberg Quinlan Research Inc. to conduct a survey among approximately 1000 women around the country to measure the impact of the terrorist attacks on their daily lives, economic stability, health, political views, families and sense of security. The survey was conducted using random digit dial methodology and was fielded November 27-29, 2001. The survey has a margin of error of +/- three percentage points.
-Center for Gender Equality-

CFGE is an independent, nonpartisan research and public education institution established to advance women's equal participation at every level of society. No such institution exists with this scope and specific focus on women. CFGE is committed to building its base of research, data and communications programs to understand and represent the complex issues that women face.

For Immediate Release
Audrey Adlam / Danielle Tracy, Porter Novelli

Samantha Taylor, Vice President of Communications, CFGE

Porter Novelli

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