PREVALENCE

The National Comorbidity Survey (NCS) conducted in 1990-1992 on a nationally representative sample of 5877 people, found the prevalence of lifetime PTSD to be 7.8% (5% in men and 10% in women) (Kessler et al. 1995). In the NCS replication conducted in 2001-2003 on 9282 people, Kessler et al. (2005b) found the prevalence of PTSD in the previous 12 months to be 3.5%. PTSD was assessed according to the World Health Organization World Mental Health Survey version of the CIDI. In a study of young adults in a health maintenance organization in an urban area, Breslau (2001a) estimated that about 8% of adults may experience lifetime PTSD, or about 15-24% of those who are exposed to traumatic events. Although women’s exposure to traumatic events is estimated to be somewhat less than that of men, twice as many women develop PTSD (Breslau 2001a). In a comparison group of 500 civilians in the National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study (NVVRS), Kulka et al. (1990) found that 1.2% of men and 0.3% of women had current (6-month) PTSD.

Many people experience traumatic events. Some traumatic events are common and are associated with a relatively low prevalence of PTSD, such as the sudden death of a loved one; other, less common traumatic events, such as rape, are associated with a very high prevalence of PTSD (see Table 5-1). In the case of the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, it was found that the postdisaster prevalence of PTSD was 34% among all cases identified in 4-8 months after the bombing (North et al. 1999).

TABLE 5-1 Prevalence of Traumatic Events and PTSD in Men and Women

Traumatic Event

Prevalence of Event (%)

Prevalence of Lifetime PTSD in Response to Event (%)

Men

Women

Men

Women

Rape

0.7

9.2

65.0

45.9

Molestation

2.8

12.3

12.2

26.5

Physical assault

11.1

6.9

1.8

21.3

Accident

25.0

13.8

6.3

8.8

Natural disaster

18.9

15.2

3.7

5.4

Witnessed death or injury

40.1

18.6

9.1

2.8

Learned about a traumatic event

63.1

61.8

1.4

3.2

Sudden death of a loved one

61.1

59.0

12.6

16.2

SOURCE: Adapted with permission from Yehuda (2002).

Combat is one of the most traumatic events a person can experience. Men who named combat as their “worst lifetime traumatic event” were found to be 7 times as likely to have PTSD than men naming other experiences (Prigerson et al. 2001). Nearly 30% of all cases of PTSD in the U.S. population are attributed to combat experience (Prigerson et al. 2002). Numerous studies in military populations have provided estimates of the prevalence of PTSD; some of those are discussed below.



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