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An Old Dominion University graduate student made national and international headlines recently with his research on the effects of airplane crashes on victims.

Gary Capobianco, co-author of the study and a doctoral candidate at Old Dominion, released the paper at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association in August.

The study suggests that air crash survivors could have better mental health after the fact than air travelers who have never had never been in a crash. The experience changes victims' perspectives on life, the study indicates.

The study has been covered in media outlets including The Washington Post, The Globe and Mail, The Economist of London, San Francisco Chronicle, New York Times, Daily Telegraph, The Times of London and Reuters English News Service. Thanos Patelis of the College Board of New York was co-author of the study.

Capobianco's findings are based on questionnaires filled out by 15 air crash survivors, more than half of whom were aboard the airliner that crashed in 1989 in Sioux City, Iowa. A control group of eight frequent travelers who had never been in an accident also was studied.

Previous studies of the mental health of airline accident victims have focused on short-term effects, Capobianco said. Few studies have been conducted on air crash survivors because there are so few of them and they tend to live far away from each other, he added.

Twenty additional survivors contacted by the researchers chose not to fill out the questionnaire, perhaps because they didn't want to relive their experience, Capobianco said.

This article was posted on: September 1, 1999

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