How Common Is PTSD?

PTSD Rates Across Gender, Age, and Marital Status

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PTSD rates differ depending upon what group of people you examine. Who gets PTSD may depend on a number of factors. In a given year, about 8 million adults can suffer from PTSD, which is a small portion of the total number of people who suffer a traumatic experience. Most people who experience a traumatic event will not develop PTSD.

Prevalence rates (or the number of people with PTSD at a particular point in time) of PTSD can differ depending upon how old you are, whether or not you are a man or a woman, and whether or not you are married.

A number of researchers have conducted studies in an attempt to get an accurate estimate of PTSD rates. In one of the most comprehensive studies conducted to date, 5,877 people from communities across the United States were interviewed in order to determine how many had a diagnosis of PTSD at some point in their lifetime. If you lump everyone together (regardless of age or sex), it was found that approximately 7.8% of the people interviewed had PTSD at some point in their lifetime.

This study also looked at differences in prevalence rates based on sex, age and marital status. The findings are reviewed below.

Sex Differences

It was found that men and women differed in lifetime rates of PTSD. Surprisingly, women were twice as likely as men to have a diagnosis of PTSD at some point in their lifetime. Specifically, 10.4 percent of women and 5 percent of men were found to have PTSD at one time or another in their past.

Why might this be? This finding may partly be due to the fact that the women they interviewed were more likely than men to have experienced traumatic events (such as rape) that have a high likelihood of leading to the development of PTSD.

Age Differences

For men, they found that there really were no differences in lifetime rates of PTSD across different age groups.

However, for women the data suggested that as they get older, PTSD rates tend to drop.

It has been found that among younger individuals who experience trauma there is a higher likelihood of developing PTSD.

Marital Status Differences

The study found that lifetime PTSD was more common among both men and women who were previously married than among those who were currently married. "Previously married" was defined as being separated, divorced or widowed.

Interestingly, men who were currently married were more likely to have a diagnosis of PTSD at some point in their life than men who were never married.

Conclusion

The findings from this study indicate that PTSD is quite common in the general population. PTSD can affect people of all ages and does not discriminate based on sex or marital status. The high rates of PTSD found in this study suggest the need for people to become more aware of the disorder and its symptoms. Knowing what PTSD is can lead to early identification of it when it occurs, and consequently, early intervention.

Sources

Kessler, R.C., Sonnega, A., Bromet, E., Hughes, M., & Nelson, C.B. (1995). Posttraumatic stress disorder in the National Comorbidity Survey. Archives of General Psychiatry. 52,1048-1060.

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