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Finding social benefits after a collective trauma: Perceiving societal changes and well-being following 9/11

Individuals frequently perceive positive changes in themselves following adversity; after a collective trauma, they may perceive such benefits in others or in their society as well. We examined perceived benefits of the September 11, 2001 (9/11) terrorist attacks in a 3-year study of a national sample of adults (N = 1382). Many individuals (57.8%) perceived social benefits of 9/11, including increased prosocial behavior, religiousness, or political engagement. Individuals who found increased national religiosity as a benefit 2 months post-9/11 reported greater positive affect and life satisfaction and lower distress and posttraumatic stress up to 3 years post-9/11. Pre-9/11 religiousness and Republican political affiliation predicted perceiving religion-related social benefits post-9/11. Perceptions of social change are important but understudied responses to stressful events.