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Member Research and Reports

Yale: Moderate-to-High Posttraumatic Stress Common After Exposure to Trauma, Violence

Over 30 percent of injury survivors who are treated in hospital emergency departments will have moderate-to-severe symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) at some point in the first year following the initial incident, new research led by Yale School of Public Health finds.

Assistant professor, Dr. Sarah Lowe and colleagues pooled data from more than 3,000 people who were treated in emergency rooms in six countries: Australia, Israel, Japan, the Netherlands, Switzerland and the United States.

The study, published in the journal Psychological Medicine, examined post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms over time and found that 64.5 percent of participants were resilient, exhibiting consistently low symptoms. The remaining 35.6 percent, however, fell into one of four other patterns, including initially high PTSD symptoms that decreased over time (16.9 percent), moderate symptoms (6.7 percent), delayed symptoms (5.5 percent) and chronically high symptoms (6.5 percent).

Factors associated with high PTSD symptoms were also identified in the study. Injuries that were due to physical assault, versus other causes, were shown to be especially predictive of immediate and longer-term symptoms over the first year. Survivors who had a history of interpersonal violence, including physical abuse and sexual assault, were also at greater risk.

Higher educational attainment was associated with fewer PTSD symptoms, the study found.

“By looking at PTSD symptom patterns across different contexts, we can have greater confidence in predicting which patients are likely to need short- and long-term mental health services,” said Dr. Lowe, a member of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences. “Combining data from six countries was a major undertaking, but certainly worth the effort.”

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