Exposure to Trauma and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Symptoms in Older Veterans Attending Primary Care: Comorbid Conditions and Self-Rated Health Status

Journal of the American Geriatrics SocietyPosttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and recollections of traumatic events have been shown to persist as many as 65 years after the trauma. The Primary Care Research in Substance Abuse and Mental Health in the Elderly (PRISM-E) study had collected PTSD-related information from more than 17.000 aged 65 and older veterans from multiple different sites across the country, urban and rural, to identify how exposure to traumatic events and current PTSD symptomatology were associated with demographic, social support, current physical health, and mental health or substance use variables.

The findings of this study are consistent with previous research that has found that posttraumatic symptoms in older adults with a history of trauma are not a time-limited phenomenon but are often present many decades after the traumatic experience. The study found that 32.5% of participants screened had experienced traumatic events, and 37% of those exposed to trauma (12% of the total population screened) endorsed PTSD symptoms. Veterans with PTSD symptoms were significantly more likely to report poor general health, smoke, be divorced, report little social support, and have a higher prevalence of mental distress, death wishes, and suicidal ideation than those with no trauma history or those with trauma but no symptoms.

PTSD symptoms are common in a substantial minority of older veterans in primary care, and careful inquiry about these symptoms is important for comprehensive assessment in geriatric populations. Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, Vol. 59, Issue 6, 2011, U. Nalla B. Durai, Mohit P. Chopra, Eugenie Coakley, Maria D. Llorente, JoAnn E. Kirchner, Joan M. Cook and Sue E. Levkoff.

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