Posttraumatic stress disorder in injured adults: etiology by path analysis

J Trauma. 1999 Nov;47(5):867-73. doi: 10.1097/00005373-199911000-00009.


Objective: Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) impairs outcome from injury. We present a path analysis of factors related to the development of PTSD in injured adults.

Methods: A prospective cohort of 250 patients without severe neurotrauma was evaluated by interview during admission and by mailed self-report 6 months later. Data were gathered from the trauma registry (age, injury mechanism, and Injury Severity Score), social history (gender, income, education, and social support), and survey instruments. Baseline assessment used the Michigan Critical Events Perception Scale (peritraumatic dissociation and subjective threat to life), the Life Experience Survey (stressful exposure history), and the SF36 (general and mental health). PTSD at 6 months was identified with the civilian Mississippi Scale for PTSD. Data are listed as mean +/- SEM or percent (%). Path analysis was conducted by linear regression and significant (p<0.05) variables are shown. Factors are listed with the standardized beta. A negative beta suggests a protective effect.

Results: The 176 patients (72%) who completed the 6-month follow-up were 37.7+/-0.88 years old; 75% were men; and blunt (70%), penetrating (13.5%), and burn (16.4%) mechanisms caused the injuries. Assault was involved in 14.5% of the cases. Average income was $44,300+/-2,700/yr, education was 13.0+/-0.15 years, and Injury Severity Score was 13.9+/-0.50. A total of 42.3% of the patients developed PTSD. The 39.7% of the variance in PTSD explained by the model was due to intentional injury (beta = 0.27), male gender (beta = -0.21), age (beta = -0.20), peritraumatic dissociation (beta = 0.174), baseline mental health (beta = -0.21), and prior life-threatening illness (beta = -0.29). Peritraumatic dissociation was due to the patient's sense of threat to life (beta = -0.47), and threat was related to Injury Severity Score (beta = 0.2), assault(beta = 0.14), education (beta = -0.15), and age (beta = -0.19). Baseline SF36 mental health was related to social support (beta = 0.27) and income (beta = 0.21). Income was contingent on education (beta = 0.21).

Conclusion: PTSD occurred in 42.3% of injured adults 6 months after trauma and was related to assault, dissociation, female gender, youth, poor mental health, and prior illness. By modeling PTSD, we may learn more of the etiology, risk stratification, and potentials for the treatment of this common and important morbidity of injury.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Adult
  • Burns / psychology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Life Change Events
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Social Support
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / etiology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Violence / psychology
  • Wounds and Injuries / psychology*
  • Wounds, Nonpenetrating / psychology
  • Wounds, Penetrating / psychology