The violence that women in disadvantaged neighborhoods experience and witness can result in post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms and full diagnoses, according to a new Northwestern Medicine study that examined a disadvantaged Chicago neighborhood.
Also noteworthy, women with PTSD diagnosis or sub-threshold PTSD had significantly more severe depression symptoms than women in the study who didn’t report experiencing trauma. Every woman who was recruited had symptoms of depression.
“There are many women who are affected by shooting and gang violence in these neighborhoods,” said first author Dr. Sunghyun Hong, a research assistant at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. “These women are often overlooked. With this study, we were able to shine a light on this high prevalence of trauma exposure and PTSD diagnosis among the underserved population.”
This is one of very few studies to explicitly examine the impact that living in a disadvantaged neighborhood has on PTSD symptoms. The study was published Dec. 7 in the Journal of Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities.
The traumatic experiences reported in the study were often violent or sexual in nature. One woman disclosed having witnessed the fatal shooting of her son, and another woman reported watching her father be murdered in her home.
The neighborhood from which women in the study were recruited ranked seventh for property crime, twenty-sixth for quality of life crime and thirty-fifth for violent crime among 77 Chicago neighborhoods.
Thirty-six percent of women in the study had PTSD or sub-threshold PTSD (substantial trauma symptoms that might not have met the full PTSD diagnostic criteria). Those with PTSD had more severe depression symptoms than other women in the study who did not exhibit signs of PTSD, said principal investigator and senior author Inger Burnett-Zeigler, clinical psychologist and assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.