Physiological arousal among women veterans with and without posttraumatic stress disorder

Mil Med. 2004 Apr;169(4):307-12. doi: 10.7205/milmed.169.4.307.


The purpose of this study was to assess baseline physiological arousal in women veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a nonresearch setting. Heart rate, blood pressure, sublingual temperature, and weight were obtained from a retrospective chart review of the medical records of 92 women veterans with and without a diagnosis of PTSD who were seen in an outpatient Veterans Affairs medical center. Women veterans with PTSD had statistically significantly higher mean baseline heart rates compared with women veterans without PTSD. The two groups did not differ statistically in blood pressure measures, sublingual temperature, or body mass index. Based on our analyses, this difference is not likely to be an artifact of age, race, body mass index, smoking status, or medication. The mean resting heart rate of women with PTSD was 83.9 beats per minute; it was 77.5 beats per minute in those without PTSD. This elevation in heart rate among women veterans with PTSD suggests an increase in baseline physiological arousal compared with women veterans without PTSD. Faster resting heart rate has been shown to be associated with a higher risk of developing hypertension and a greater incidence of cardiovascular morbidity and mortality in non-PTSD samples. Further research is needed to determine the physiological effects of PTSD in women.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Arousal / physiology*
  • Databases as Topic
  • Female
  • Heart Rate
  • Hospitals, Veterans
  • Humans
  • North Carolina
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Self-Assessment
  • Statistics as Topic
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / physiopathology*
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic / psychology
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • Veterans / psychology*